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3-Child Minn. School Seeks Reprieve To Stay Open

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The only school in Angle Inlet, Minn., may lose its state fund-ing. If that happens, three little girls will face a 90-minute bus ride each morning to a school 65 miles away.

A special state grant of $50,000 allowed the one-room Angle School in Minnesota's northernmost town to reopen last fall. Enrollment: two kindergartners and a 1st grader.

The school had been closed for two years because of the town's dwindling school-age population. If the legislature fails to renew the grant for the coming year, the school will again close and the three youngsters will join Angle Inlet's high school students in the daily journey south, through Canada, to Warroad, Minn.

Linda Kastl is the Angle School's lone teacher and the mother of one of its students, 6-year-old Erica. The residents of the town deserve the opportunity to have their children educated close to home, Ms. Kastl said.

"We live where we live because that's what we choose," she said. "But it isn't fair when the school board says you have two choices-- move or bus."

Close-Knit Town

A surveyor's error in the 1840's created the bump on Minnesota's rooftop known as the Northwest Angle, separated from the rest of the United States by water and a chunk of Manitoba, Canada.

Travel is often easiest by boat, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle.

About 75 people, many of them resort owners, live in the close-knit community, and they care about their school, Ms. Kastl said.

"This is a community school," she said. "The parents are more involved, and the kids have a real sense of belonging."

The long drive to Warroad is hard enough on high school students, but would be especially difficult for elementary-age youngsters, she said. "That's a lot to ask of small children."

Ms. Kastl speaks from experience. For the two years the Angle School was closed, she taught in Warroad and made the daily bus trip herself--after a boat ride just to get to the bus stop.

"It was dark and cold and I had to get my daughter up at 5 A.M. to go with me," she recalled in a telephone interview last week. "I'm steering the boat with one hand and trying to hold a floodlight with my other hand. It wasn't very pleasant."

Two state lawmakers, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf and Rep. Jim Tunheim, have sponsored legislation that would provide $30,000 to keep the little school open for the next two years.

"Luckily, some other aid came through and we found out that the school wouldn't need as much money to operate," Mr. Tunheim said. He added that he is optimistic about the bill's chances. "The money is there. It's just getting it through the legislature."

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