Authors: Janet Gritzner*, South Dakota State University
Topics: Rural Geography, Cultural Geography, Population Geography
Keywords: Small towns, Midwest US, Community Life, Schools, Churches
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
School closure and consolidation have a long history in rural South Dakota. School district reorganization is on-going in the 21st Century as rural populations continue to decline. Church closures are a relatively recent phenomenon, although many independent rural churches in the state have seen dwindling membership for decades and have ceased to hold services on a regular basis. A number of failing churches have sold their church buildings or have seen them fall into ruin. Even larger churches are impacted. In 2014, in response to priest shortages, the catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls implemented plans for a series of parish mergers and pastoral linkages throughout eastern South Dakota. This move, which would inevitably lead to church closures, has been resisted to date by many of the affected parishes. Other closures have come from decisions of state government and private-local entities. This includes the radical move to close the University of South Dakota at Springfield in 1984, and reopen the facility as Mike Dufee State Prison and the sale and resale of Huron University, Huron, SD.
Closures and consolidations of schools, colleges, and churches are profoundly altering community life in small South Dakota communities. Schools and colleges are at the heart of town life. Church-centered towns lose their focus. Small towns in South Dakota, however, are coping and adapting. School consolidation is shifting focus to regional loyalties and churches in various communities are sharing pastoral services and church buildings.