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The school in Amidon has been closed this school year. Kayla Henson / Forum News Service

One-room western ND schoolhouse may close despite parents’ wishes

AMIDON, N.D. -- The only school in the western North Dakota small town of Amidon is a one-room schoolhouse with just three students. Those students are being homeschooled at the moment, and the school board has moved to dissolve the one-school district, a decision that has upset parents.

The decision was made in August when the two parents told school board President Gary VanDaele that they would be sending their kids to the school in New England, 25 miles to the east.

“At the time, I didn’t wanna suffer through one of the old teachers that had been here,” said parent Alicia Elliot, “because the last teacher that we had started with wasn’t very good, either. She didn’t keep records; the kids were bullied; it was bad; it was super bad.”

When VanDaele first called Elliot to tell her they had hired a teacher, she had told him to give her a couple of days to think about whether or not she would send her kids to school there. She couldn’t find out any information on the new teacher, so when VanDaele called her back, she said she was going to send her kids to New England.

“The teacher that we had at that point in time was a damn good teacher,” VanDaele said. “They did not know that. They pulled the plug way too soon.”

Elliot said it was maybe the second week of August that she found out who the teacher was. She called VanDaele saying they made a mistake; they wanted to backtrack.

The two parents knew the teacher that was hired and had heard “wonderful things about her.”

By the time VanDaele found out the kids would come back, they had already voted to begin dissolution. While they were told that they could not go back once the decision had been made, Elliot said VanDaele told her he would see what could be done.

So, the parents decided to homeschool their kids.

“That way we’re not having to pull them out of one school to come back to another school,” Elliot said. “Let’s just homeschool them. Let’s see how this goes, because we were still in hopes that this school was gonna roll.”

Months later, the fate of the school lies in limbo. The dissolution process has begun. It is unclear if the decision can be undone. Its students are being homeschooled, and though the district has a teacher in mind, he is not yet certified to teach.

Elliot does not want to send her kids to another school. She attended a large school and said the prospect of sending her kids to a small school was one of the appeals of Amidon.

VanDaele said the number of students has been going down steadily over the years. A lot of parents who work out of town take their kids to school in the town where they work.

“None of us wanna see our school gone,” said VanDaele, “but times have changed. What do you do?