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Settlement Schools of Appalachia

The Current Roles
of Settlement Schools


Through the years, settlement schools have continued to educate the people of Eastern Kentucky, stressing not only academics, but also the arts and the importance of the Appalachian heritage. These schools faced financial hardship with the development of roads and the building of public schools in the 1920s and ’30s, diminishing the role of settlement schools. Some of them closed during this period, but others managed to stay afloat, thanks to the determination of school leaders who saw the value of keeping these unique institutions alive.

Settlement schools have developed many special programs over the years, and they continue to evolve to meet present-day needs. One outstanding example can be found at the Hindman Settlement School, where Lois Combs Weinberg, daughter of former Kentucky Governor Bert Combs, founded a tutorial program for people with dyslexia. The only program of its kind in Kentucky east of Louisville, it served more than 1,400 students in its first five years. Hindman is also home to an adult learning center which focuses on adult literacy, including preparing adults for the GED test.

Pine Mountain Settlement School has become well known for its environmental education program, which serves elementary students from the local area as well as other parts of the state. The school also runs an elderhostel program, drawing participants from as far away as California and Canada.

These types of services are vital to the people of Eastern Kentucky, just as the original programs of the settlement schools were in their heyday. But to keep these programs thriving, the schools have also had to evolve new forms of financial support. Hindman, like many of the schools, receives most of its operating revenue from an endowment fund, while other allocations come from individuals. With the donated money, Hindman has established library services, teacher services, a writers’ workshop, and arts programs that promote Appalachian culture.

The alumni of Stuart Robinson School, now the site of Calvary College in Letcher, KY, remain loyal to the school by providing financial support for the school’s upkeep and rebuilding program and by attending reunions and Christmas parties on the campus.

—Jennifer Minton


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