'Not enough for a real rootin' game,'
Albany County, Wyo., may be the largest school district in the continental United States. The district is large not because of the number of students, but because it encompasses 4,374 square miles. Albany County also has more rural schools than most districts. This year four of those schools have only one student.Skip to next paragraph
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There are 13 distant rural schools in the north end of the county and five closer rural schools. The distant schools are 50 and 125 miles from Laramie, and some do not have a telephone. These schools keep in contact via two-way radios.
In one case, the quaint one-room schoolhouse has given way to a modern trailer, in which the teacher lives in one end and teaches in the other half. This year Cozy Hollow School has only one student, as do River Bridge, Palmer Canyon, and Indian Guide.
The Bosler School was built in 1937. It is one of the nearer rural schools, only 20 miles north of Laramie. Economic fluctuations in the railroad industry have long since left the town virtually deserted, but on election day, 1980, two "votamatics" were set up in the basement, and Bosler's 14 students were having a bake sale. All items sold for 10 cents.
Mrs. Clyde Bresnahan, the janitor, says, "There's no water here. Only the rugged few who live here take the time to haul it." She and her husband have worked for 20 years at the Bosler School, and she has a unique method for keeping it clean. She tells the children that the building has a personality.
"You look around this building. Visitors can tell who lives here. Are there marks on the walls? Are there chairs torn up? No! Mrs. Bosler tells on us. She knows if I don't sweep the floor. I'm proud of our kids because we teach them to be good citizens. It's on a one- to-one basis."
Rob Young, in his first year of teaching at the Bosler School, echoes those same feelings. "With seven students, it's a lot easier to individualize your work and to help students with problems they are having."
Fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders have a definite disadvantage because of a lack of social interaction, but isolated ranch families want to have their children attend school close to home. Mr. Young adds, "All of the support services are excellent. If you need something and it's valid, there's no problem in getting it."
Country schools serve as community centers -- a role they have played since the settlement of the West. On election day at Bosler, hot beverages are served downstairs and assorted ranchers drift in, cast their ballots, and return to their pickup trucks. Ben Smith, 84, came in to vote and when asked his preference among the candidates, he replied, "I voted Democratic until after the First World War."
One of Mrs. Edith clymer's eight pupils describes what it is like to go to a one-teacher school. Sixth-grader Kyle Riley says about sports, "There's not enough for a real rootin' game, but we divide up anyway."