MARATHON -- Budget cuts across the nation have smaller school districts struggling to get by. One of those districts we introduced on Monday -- Marathon I.S.D. -- was in a lot of trouble for years. But, through hard work, they got out of it.
On Monday, we told you the story of the tiny district that survived despite the odds against it. Marathon I.S.D. no longer needs a conservator to monitor they're finances, and they no longer face a looming threat of consolidation with Alpine-a district 30 miles away. They're in good shape, and its thanks to the people surrounding this district that they are healthy.
Now, we'll go directly to those long time Marathon residents and why they say if the school shuts down, the town goes with it.
"I would hate to see it leave, said Nancy Lee, who owns Marathon Coffee Shop. "I would hate to lose it."
Lee is talking about her high school. She now owns the coffee shop in her hometown, brewing coffee and preparing special recipes for Marathon.
"My meatloaf got me in Texas Monthly a few years ago," said Lee.
But like many others in the area, Lee was concerned when their tiny school was in trouble.
"School is the heart of the community," said Lee.
Trouble for the school means trouble for the town.
"We would lose a lot of these families," said Lee. "And it would be sad."
Lee says it would be like the story of the pied piper. One day, all the children would be gone, leaving echoes behind.
"I just think it would be sad to have these children lose the cameraderie of a small town," said Lee. "You don't have that in a larger school, you don't. Everyone knows everybody here."
Lone Marathon I.S.D. senior Michelle Campbell can relate. These halls feel like home to her. She even has a little trophy in the tall cases along the walls that will forever honor her long after she graduates.
"It means a lot it has a lot of history, memories, said Campbell. "It was where I was raised at pretty much."
It also means a lot to six year resident Marci Roberts, who owns French Co. Grocer. Compared to others, she's only been in the town a short time.
"I am a newcomer, oh yes," said Roberts.
But Roberts holds on to memories of watching six man football, and how the whole town came out to cheer,
"With a town this size and you talk about shutting the school down, you take the risk of killing a town," said Roberts.
Marathon I.S.D. Superintendent Neal Harrison agrees. That small town feeling is what brought him here in the first place.
"The people are extremely friendly, said Harrison. "When I first got here, everyone was introducing me to everyone."
"We're just as good as any big school, said Marathon School Secretary Coy Gonzalez. "We have good teachers, good students,"
Gonzalez has worked at the school for over 18 years. She graduated from Marathon High and knows what would happen if the school shut down.
"It would be just a tourist town," said Gonzalez. "That's all it would be."
As Roberts looks across the football field and the tall mountain range surrounding it, she couldn't imagine losing this.
"How do you get people to come and work if kids can't come to school here?" asked Roberts. "Tourists come to this town, they love the community that we have."
For now, the school is safe. The community of just over 400 people came together to save their special school, knowing that without it, there hometown would be just a memory.
"It would make the town probably plummet," said Campbell.
"We would lose a lot of these families and it would be sad," said Lee.
"It's a certain way of life, that I think that people yearn for," said Roberts.
"You know a lot of places have closed up over the years in the state of Texas," said Harrison. "You will see cemeteries, there use to be a town there and when they closed up the school, the town went away."
Residents can rest easy knowing their school isn't going anywhere. In fact, its only growing, Harrison told Big 2 that they have 34 kids under the age of four getting ready to attend school in Marathon. His hopes are to double enrollment in the next five years and hopefully have a six-man football team once again. Still, like every district in the state, Marathon I.S.D. is waiting to see how Austin will change their budget, and if it could mean more setbacks in the future.
Jackie Smith can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.