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Gallatin County school hopes state won't cut funding

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: May 15 2013 08:00:01 PM MDT
Updated On: May 16 2013 04:00:16 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Six kids grades kindergarten through 7th grade attend Pass Creek School, north of Bozeman. Their teacher, Mrs. Rider, has been teaching in that classroom for 15 years.

"These kids are my life. I love these kids," Sidney Rider said.

She said they're like a family. And even though it's a small school with a wide age range, she said they have all the resources they need.

"They're definitely getting a full curriculum," she said.

The kids agree. "Every activity is hands on," said Dustyn Biggs, one of the two 7th graders. "You get to know everything."

On days like Wednesday, an art teacher comes in to give a lesson.

Just a day before on Tuesday, Gallatin County Commissioners gave the okay for the district to apply to become classified as an isolated school.

The Office of Public Instruction said if they don't, state funding will get cut in half. That's because Pass Creek fell below an average of 10 students over three years.

The school is one of four one-room rural schools in Gallatin County- the others being Maulmborg, Springhill and Cottonwood. Maulmborg is the second smallest, at 14 students. Springhill and Cottonwood have 16 and 22 students, respectively.

Isolation status means the state decides it's not feasible to send the kids to another school. Gallatin County Schools Superintendent Mary Ellen Fitzgerald said the isolation status form asks if students could be transferred to a nearby school. She said Springhill is close enough to fit the criteria, but they are too close to capacity to accommodate.

If the state approves, they'll fund $36,000 dollars and the status will stay in place for three years. If not, the district would have to ask taxpayers to fill in the gap.

The kids said they love their school, and can't imagine going to class anywhere else.

"There's not very many people here, of course, but it's really fun," Biggs said, adding "you get to do anything you want pretty much, and it's not too big."

Mrs. Rider said the time they can spend together makes their school so special.

"There is such a feeling of family and connection with me and every one of these students," she said. "We just love being together."