Education: Way, Way Back to Basics

One-room schools hold their own in the battle against extinction

Morning on the high plains. Inside the red frame Hanging Woman school, 30 miles from the nearest paved road in the cattle country east of Sheridan, Wyo., Fifth-Grader Emily Myers, 10, sits at an upright piano practicing Silent Night for the Christmas pageant. Close by, a second grader starts her daily struggle with sums, while a fifth grader plays a geography game on a computer. Both seem oblivious to the plinking of the carol. Outside, snow is falling on waves of brown, sage-spotted hills.

At Salund elementary school in McLeod (pop. 50), N. Dak., Teacher Janice Herbranson, 51, has served breakfast...

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