A Fading Coal County Bets on Schools, but There’s One Big Hitch

Hard hit by the decline of mining, a rural area in West Virginia is trying to attract teachers in a comeback effort. What’s lacking are jobs for the graduates.

Teachers like Lillian Keys, left, and Shania Clack are on the front line of an unusual strategy to restore promise to a corner of West Virginia coal country.Credit…Mike Belleme for The New York Times

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By Eduardo Porter

WELCH, W.Va. — Lillian Keys came back.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Concord University in Athens, W.Va., the 24-year-old English teacher did something rare among her peers: She returned home to Welch to teach at Mount View High School, from which she graduated in 2014. “People my age and older usually don’t come back to the county,” Ms. Keys told me. “A lot of our kids want to go away.”

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