What it's like to be the only student in a one-room Montana school



Amber Leetch, 11, has a tough gig for a sixth grader. As reported in The New York Times, Leetch is the sole student in Greenough's one-room school, located about 30 minutes from Missoula. She plays volleyball at Seeley Lake Elementary and was part of the Christmas pageant in Ovando. Otherwise, Leetch is with her teacher, Toni Hatten, for every lesson, every lunch and every recess, for every day of school.

There are folks who pay big money for that kind of student-teacher ratio. But the situation provides obvious challenges to Leetch, Hatten and the tiny Sunset School District. For one, just keeping the school open is a tough sell.

“It ruffles some feathers with other districts who say it’s a lot of money for one student,” Darlene Troutwine, the Sunset district clerk, tells the Times. The district's entire annual budget is $83,000.

Interestingly, the Sunset district is far from alone. While this story provides a wonderful window into a single one-room school, it also makes clear there are many others.

Sunset is the smallest one-room school in Montana (a second room was added, but it is only used for physical education and storage), which has 62 of them, ranging from one to 18 students. It is the only one-room school in the state with a lone student, though there are some with two or three. About 20 small schools have closed in the last decade in the state.

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