Several one room schools still exist in North Dakota

Published: Apr. 24, 2018 at 6:59 PM CDT
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It may seem unusual for an entire kindergarten through eighth grade school to consist of just 14 students, but there are actually seven public schools in North Dakota with less than 20 students in a single room.

Just over a decade ago, the Manning School had only four students taught by one teacher. Now there are two instructors, one teaching five students from kindergarten through third grade, and the other takes care of the nine upperclassmen.

It's a strange idea today, but this classroom functions just like any other.

“Some teachers will think, 'oh you only have 9 kids.' But I have nine students and every curriculum per grade with those nine students, so it's a lot of work, it's very tedious work, and a lot of multi-tasking, but I enjoy it every day,” said Rachel Steffen, Principal and fourth through eighth grade teacher.

She has to juggle academics, the arts, being the nurse, janitor, lunch lady and physical education.

Second grader Nichole Sikes has been to a larger Bismarck school, but says she prefers Manning.

“They have less kids, so there's less bullying and everything, and the teacher can pay more attention to you if you're struggling,” said Sikes.

“These guys. That's why you do it. Or having them go, 'wow remember when I couldn't do that and now I can?' Or how these first graders just finished their first chapter book. They started as kindergartners and couldn't put their first words together and now they're finishing their first chapter book. That's why you do it,” said Heide Schneider, kindergarten through third combination teacher.

This school demonstrates less can be more.

Manning School actually feeds into Bismarck High School and Principal Steffen says they're just as prepared for high school and college as any other student.