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On His Own

While numerous schools across the nation face issues of crowded classes and soaring student-to-teacher ratios, the Harney School faces the opposite: a whopping student body of one.

Fifth grader Daniel Kennedy Jr. is the lone student at the Tioga, N.D., school, tucked into the northwestern corner of the state.

"It's all right," he said, though "it can be kind of boring at times."

The Harney School, which offers kindergarten through 8th grade, is located in the New Public School District No. 8. The school is the smallest of four in the 218-student district.

"Some years, we may have nine [students], some years three, and some years five. This year we're in a change," said teacher Shirley Hageness. "We're the smallest school, I'm sure, in the U.S.A."

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, though, 21 regular schools served just one student in 2001-02, the most recent school year for which data are available.

Last year, the Harney School had seven students, who have since moved on to high school or transferred.

"This is the smallest enrollment that I've had the opportunity to work with," Ms. Hageness said. "As long as there was one student with need for a teacher here, I said I'd continue on and finish out for them."

The country school is held in a modular home with a track, playground, and basketball court. Often, deer and other wildlife will wander by.

"It reminds you of stories of the 'Little House on the Prairie,' only this is a little school on the prairie," Ms. Hageness said.

Daniel studies all academic subjects and physical education with Ms. Hageness, who holds a master's degree in education administration and served as the superintendent of a different district.

Having one student has its advantages, Ms. Hageness said.

"He and I have an excellent method of working together," she said. "And there are no interruptions, of course."

Daniel also feels the experience is positive for him academically.

"At least now I'm getting straight A's, probably," he said.

The student's father, Daniel Kennedy Sr., said he was pleased with the unusual school setup.

"It's a highly qualified teacher providing 100 percent of their time for the duration of the day to my son," he said. "It doesn't get any better than that."

—Olivia Doherty

Vol. 23, Issue 7, Page 3

Published in Print: October 15, 2003, as Take Note

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