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Rural Schoolhouses Disappearing as Costs Rise, Enrollment Falls

Only 400 to 700 of the small schoolhouses used to educate mostly rural students still are in use, and many of those are threatened by shrinking enrollment and increasing costs.

An Associated Press story on the issue has been circulating across the country recently, and it describes the situation in Montana, which has more of those schoolhouses than anywhere else (the state has about 60). Most of the nation's smallest schoolhouses are in western rural communities.

The story describes one typical day in Divide, Mont., which has four students ranging from 5- to 14-years-old. They learn in the same classroom from the same teacher, who also serves as the school's principal, counselor, and nurse.

In other places, enrollment has shrunk because families have moved to be closer to work, and ranches are occupied by out-of-towners who don't enroll their children, according to the story.

The New York Times published an interesting feature on one of these Montana schoolhouses last year, and many rural communities nationwide are trying to preserve those structures.

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