schoolers offered choice
School bus ride to
least favorite option
Express Staff Writer
just 60 miles to the north of here, is still much like Ketchum might have
been 100 years ago. It’s a lovely place to visit but it’s difficult to
educate your kids there.
Student Ashley Hansen gets physical education, Stanley-style..
Express photo by David N. Seelig
in 1890, Stanley is one of the few towns remaining that still retains the
ambiance of the region’s gold mining era. The slopes of the nearby
Sawtooth, Boulder, White Cloud and Salmon River mountain ranges are
littered with mining ghost towns, such as Vienna on Smiley Creek, Sawtooth
City in Beaver, and Custer and Bonanza on the Yankee Fork of the Salmon
summer, the Sawtooth Valley swells with visitors who use Stanley as a base
for explorations of the Salmon River, the Sawtooth National Recreation
Area and other attractions. In the winter, however, the town virtually
several reasons for this, and not the least is that that there is no high
school in Stanley.
recently, for students who reach high school age there have been three
choices, none of them very attractive. They could either move with their
families to Challis, board with a family in Challis during the school
year, or take a school bus daily from Stanley to the Challis High School.
The latter option means a two-hour bus ride each way over a winding,
dangerous highway along the Salmon River.
to let the status quo govern their lives, families in Stanley formed
Sawtooth Valley High School Foundation and are working to bring a public
high school to their small town.
a well regarded kindergarten through eighth-grade school, which currently
educates about 40 youngsters.
Student Shawn Burdon takes part in a kitchen-based biology lesson.
Express photo by David N. Seelig
fundamental reasons for a high school is that when families are forced to
abandon Stanley for Challis, or to other communities, the town looses part
of its vital work force as well as community members. This, in turn,
hampers the community’s efforts to attract new residents with families.
establishment of a (high) school in Stanley will provide an absolutely
necessary, integral part of infrastructure, which will enhance future
community and economic development," said Keith Reese, chairman of
the Sawtooth Valley High School; Foundation.
this dilemma, the Stanley Secondary Education Committee also was formed
several years ago. It presented a study to the Challis School District in
1997. Over the next two years, the committee visited many public and
private schools around the state and researched remote school situations
in other states. The committee met again in 1999 and 2000 with the Challis
School District and, on the strength of information received from the
Idaho Department of Education, the committee and the school district
believed that the establishment of a high school was imminent.
after further review, the Idaho Department of Education realized that
until the school was established there was the possibility that some
grades would have zero enrollment.
education department maintains standards in attendance. If one grade is
empty in a given year, state funding support drops. It refused to alter
its interpretation of this law, and told the committee and school district
that the department is in the business of education, not community
were presented: open a temporary private high school, or ask for an
amended interpretation of the education department’s funding tables,
while changing the law regarding school closure issues of remote schools
to affect existing schools only.
Students Shawn Burdon and Dale Reese tune up their instruments before a musical lesson.
Express photo by David N. Seelig
issue might allow a school board wanting to start a school the chance to
experiment without being irrevocably bound to a decision to open a school
in a remote area.
committee formed the Sawtooth Valley High School Foundation to carry out
these objectives and continue the general effort to establish a secondary
non-profit status from Idaho in March.
interim step, the foundation is partially funding a private cooperative
high school, using a "Distance Learning" curriculum on the
students—one in each grade—are currently taking advantage of this
alternative to the four-hour bus drive to and from Challis. Two other high
school students are taking the bus and one is driving.
school is temporarily located in a house previously owned by the Sawtooth
Hotel, and now on loan from Albertsons College, which bought the hotel
students work together in one room though the curriculum is according to
grade level. Sparky Easom is serving as headmaster, tutor and teacher.
pretty pleased with how it’s working out," Easom said. "It
makes my work easier—who could argue with those ratios—one teacher to
four students. As far as a traditional high school experience, it’s
lucky that they get along so well together."
Easom said, it was a family decision for the kids to stay in Stanley.
"But as it turns out, these students would have chosen the private
school over the bus as well as their parents choosing it for them. They’re
Two of the
students are taking math and science together and three are studying
Spanish together. Currently, Easom is facilitating 13 different courses
during this semester.
help with pacing and keeping them on track. One of the important skills is
budgeting their time, setting goals for their performances. In the future
I see us getting more students, and taking full advantage of the Internet,
more involvement from outside experts, and hopefully do more field trips.
Utilizing outdoor resources, that we have around us, and incorporate it in
the curriculum, it’s one of the advantages to being in Stanley."
Ashley Hansen, 17, the sole senior, lives in town on her own. She works
full time at the Mountain Village, and said it was too hard to get up
every day to take the bus to Challis. After a month of taking the bus to
Challis, she quit going.
In the long
run it’s worked out well for her. "In public school I was more
worried about hanging around with people. Now, I’m more concerned with
my grades and what’s going to happen after high school."
help with the physical education program—taking the kids mountain
biking, for instance, and on one recent weekend a climbing guide took them
climbing at the City of Rocks, near Almo, Idaho. Easom said that local
experts will come in and do a presentation, such as biologists who work in
the valley who’ve taken them on field trips.
them further the cause, the foundation has enlisted help from Idaho State
Sen. Don Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, who is on the Senate Education Committee.
He will be presenting legislation to change the interpretation of Idaho
Code 33-102 (6), which limits state funding for remote schools based on
that he "asked them to step into the fray and direct the Department
of Education to do the right thing."
himself, is a parent of the only 10th grader at the private
school. His son Dale "enjoys going to Wood River and Challis dances,
and enjoys the environment," in Stanley, but is "looking for
ways to increase his social activity."
costing additional money for tax paying Stanley parents for their kids to
attend this school.
is currently paying $2,000, while the community and various donations are
making up the remainder of the school’s annual budget of $27,000.
the foundation is still attempting to fund a multi-purpose high school
building, which would inclusively act as a gym, auditorium and community
community’s needs, as a whole, would be served by a new facility of this
kind, said Reese.
Partnership 2001 fundraising effort has accumulated $22,630 to date. Their
goal for this year is $50,000, and in 20002 is $56,000.