In the small rural town of Hartsville, SC (population 7,764), many students come from families at or near the poverty line with more than half qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. The median income for a household is $16,063. The town is the subject of a PBS documentary 180 Days: Hartsville. It focuses on two elementary schools in Hartsville that work primarily with low-income children. The documentary reveals that many national strategies for school reform aren’t viable in towns like Hartsville. As producers Sam Chaltain explains, “Transportation costs alone circumscribe the choices many rural families can make, and many residents still have no Internet access.”
Yet even with those obstacles, Hartsville is fighting the odds, and winning, with an astonishing 92 percent graduation rate. “Hartsville has proven that if the right forces in a determined community come together to put children first, tangible results will follow,” said Jacquie Jones, co- director and executive producer. 180 Days: Hartsville will air on March 17 beginning at 8pm on PBS.