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Montana's rural schoolhouses: the nostalgic roots of rural education face an uncertain future


In this April 30, 2013 , photo, siblings, Tyrell and Shelby Schrepfer swing at recess in Polaris, Montana. The pair are students at Polaris School, which only serves four students. (AP Photo/Kathryn Haake) (The Associated Press)

Small, rural schools in Montana are praised by many administrators and teachers.

They say small class size is the secret to academic success, but shrinking student enrollment due to increased urbanization is causing alarm for some administrators.

One such school, Melrose, had an enrollment of 18 students five years ago. Butte Silverbow County Superintendent Cathy Maloney says the school will only have one student next year.

She says the future of the school is unclear with such a low number of students attending it. It may be forced to consolidate or close.

Approximately 400 rural schoolhouses remain in the U.S. and 60 of them are located in Montana. Maloney says these schools are a necessity for rural students who are isolated by geography and weather.

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