Susan Orlean, of the New Yorker, once said that living in a rural region exposes the body and mind to marvelous things: the natural world, the “particular texture” of small-town life and the “exhilarating experience” of open space.
It’s not difficult to argue that.
Hazel Green Academy was located in a remote small town in the hills of eastern Kentucky. The private school, set among the hardwoods and abutting flowing pastures, was an ideal location when it opened to students in 1880. It’s purpose was to offer low tuition rates, offer a good education to the under-served and offer its students a stepping stone to college and “a higher sphere in life” and hope.
The school’s curriculum consisted mostly of college preparatory courses, and students were expected to participate in religious activities, which was not at all surprising as it was operated in part by the Christian Woman’s Board of Mission of Kentucky and then the United Christian Missionary Society, a branch of the Dusciples of Christ Christian Church.
Time marched on. By the mid-1920’s, the Academy boasted a 212-acre farm, a used clothing store, a small hospital and a kindergarten, along with a gymnasium, administration building, classrooms and an arts and crafts complex. Free public education offered by the state, however, began to sweep through the state in the 1910’s and 1920’s. In 1929, the Academy began offering courses only for middle and high school students. In 1965, grades 7 and 8 were dropped.
The Academy struggled to cope with steadily declining enrollment and poor fundraising, and could not compete with public institutions that were able to offer a comparable education at far less cost while offering higher salaries to teachers. Hazel Green Academy became an independent institution affiliated with the Christian Church in 1971, and then began a major push to strengthen its fundraising and recruitment efforts. It was only a temporary solution to a long-term decline of the school. On June 30, 1983, owing to an increasing financial deficit, the Board of Directors voted to not reopen that fall.