Carbon County is located in Castle Valley in Southeastern Utah. Within its boundaries are the cities/towns of Helper, Kenilworth, Price, Wellington, East Carbon, and Sunnyside. Carbon County is a rural county with a population of approximately 20,000. Price is the heart of the county and boasts the home of Utah State University Eastern (formerly known as the College of Eastern Utah) and the Prehistoric Museum. Also within county boundaries are the Nine Mile Canyon and Range Creek Canyon petroglyphs. The area is steeped in history and is rich in diversity. Many ethnic immigrants settled in Carbon County to work in the coalmines or on the railroads, the two major industries in the area. There is a colorful ethnic diversity found in the many Greek, Italian, Slavic, Hispanic, and Asian families still residing here.
The fluctuating success of the mining industry over the years has resulted in a series of “boom” and “bust” years. The population would peak during times of growth in the energy industry, only to plummet during hard times. This ebb and flow pattern is evident in our schools as well. During the early part of the 1980’s when the mining industry was in full swing, Carbon School District was in the position of providing ample classroom space to meet the needs of its students. Older schools were closed to make way for larger capacity schools. Teachers were hired by the dozens and times were good. Then came the energy crisis years, and the flip side of the coin reared its ugly head. The population of Carbon County, since 1980, has gone from a high of nearly 25,000 in 1982 to its 2004 population of 19,385. Unemployment rates have fluctuated over the years as mines have closed and the industry suffered great losses.
The two small towns of East Carbon and Sunnyside, on the farthermost reaches of Carbon County, suffered greatly when Kaiser Steel, ECDC, Tower Mine, and U.S. Steel closed their mines that were the lifeblood of those two communities. In 2007, Carbon County has also had to deal with the tragedy at Crandall Canyon Mine, which leaves the mining industry in a more precarious position for future layoffs, and instability with the workforce as national attention is focused onto the safety of those who choose mining as a career.
As the population faces unemployment, many families are forced to move to the other places to find jobs. The effect of this migration is that the Carbon School District had to close three of its schools in the past fifteen years. Revenues that are used to provide services for children are decreased as student population decreases.