McDowell County schools continue to struggle despite a decade under state control, with West Virginia’s worst dropout rate and lagging behind all or most other counties in reading, science and math. The county also suffers from one of the lowest median incomes in the country, and ranks high for the percentage of residents living in poverty, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures. Drug abuse and prescription painkiller overdoses are an issue as well.
Organizers say Reconnecting McDowell envisions the county’s schools becoming hubs for much-needed social and health-related services. With some areas lacking even dial-up access to the Internet, the project aims to expand broadband and cell phone coverage. Other thorny topics facing the partnership include economic development, transportation and housing.