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Undercrowded Classroom

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Overcrowding is definitely not a problem at the Pines School on Bois Blanc Island, Mich. In most classrooms across the country, students must vie for the teacher's attention, share a limited number of computers, and race each other to the slide during recess.

Not so at the Pines School, where 7-year-old Brandon Schlund, the school's one and only pupil, gets first dibs at everything.

"It can't get any better than one-on-one instruction," says Lani White, the school's teacher, principal, and receptionist all rolled into one.

The biggest disadvantage for 2nd-grader Brandon is that he misses out on the socialization and learning that come from interaction with other children, Ms. White says. But, she adds, she can be much more flexible in deciding when and how to cover a given subject than would be possible at a typical school.

"If we come to something that tickles our fancy," Ms. White observes, "we can spend more than just 20 minutes on the topic."

And, armed with a $49,000 annual budget, the one-room school also enjoys a degree of financial flexibility. Even after paying Ms. White's $27,000 salary, plus a custodian's salary and the upkeep on the schoolhouse, enough is left over for a computer, videocassette recorder, television, and film projector.

To insure that they do not tire of each other or get into a rut, Ms. White says she plans to vary their class routine by going on a number of "listening and learning walks" around Bois Blanc to increase their knowledge of the 33-square-mile island.

So far, neither student nor teacher seems at all displeased or bored with the unique arrangement. In fact, Ms. White says, "things are working out very well."

But Brandon won't be alone for long. The school's enrollment will double next fall when Ms. White's 4-year-old begins kindergarten.--jw

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