August 24th, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Florida's last one-room schoolhouse endures

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN)–Rebekah Lester will be Duette Elementary school's new teacher this school year. With only one teacher, Duette is the last school of its kind in Florida.

"You could call it a one-room schoolhouse but essentially the students are in one room with one teacher," Lester told CNN affiliate WTSP. The elementary school serves 18 students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

The building, which was built in 1930 by volunteers, has five rooms, but only one classroom. But the school is equipped with technology – each student has his or her own laptop – and the students will be prepared for Florida's standardized tests, says Lester.

For several years, prinicipal and former teacher Donna King went without a salary as she managed to keep the school open. Now she says she hopes to focus on fundraising for the school, which reimburses the district for Lester's salary.

Before King recruited Lester, parents were worried that the school might have to close when King announced her retirement from teaching last year.

Lester is no stranger to Duette, either. Her oldest child is a Duette alumnus who went on to be a high school honor student and her youngest is enrolling at the school this year.

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Filed under: Elementary school • Practice • video
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. 1-800slapthathoe

    Hey hey hey in school lame af but god bless

    August 30, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  2. Mrs. Wood's Algebra 1 Class

    How do you possibly teach seven grade levels at one time, and still offer individual help to students when they need it? Yes, the class is smaller than normal for an elementary school, but there's a LOT going on in one room! We think it would be chaotic and stressful. We would love to know how Ms. Lester plans to do it...she must be superwoman!

    August 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  3. Matthew Higgins

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    August 28, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Matthew Higgins

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      August 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  4. Loopman

    Started my education in a small one room rural scholl and ended it at a big city high school with a graduating class somewhere near 400-500. It was so big I never eally knew just how many were in it. In hindsight, I would have preferred my kids to go through school at a small school just because I learned the hard way the challenges of a big school. Less individual student help, too much focus on "meeting the numbers" and too much of a scenario similar to sardines in a can. I welcome you to please pick apart my grammar and spelling if you think that matters at all. Mostly that type of behavior is indicative of a petty small mind that can't stand to hear the truth when spoken so people are quick to attack the source. I'm good with that since I know I'm not perfect and accept it. How about you?

    August 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Theo

      Whoa. Did someone criticize you or something? Sounds like you have some haters.

      August 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  5. Ami

    My kids attend a two-room school – one teacher has K-2nd, the other has 3rd – 5th, 20 kids total. My now-senior went there, as did my neice and nephews. I attended the oldest's graduation from medical school last year. My neice will be graduating from high school at 16. As a middle school teacher in the nearby, larger town, I could always tell which kids came from this elementary school – ready to learn, able to handle projects without hand-holding, and ease in relating to people of all ages. If you care about standardized testing, they always beat out the rest of the district. Smaller schools don't need to cost more – you don't need a principal, for example. Why do we keep cramming more kids into classrooms and buildings, and then wonder why we fall further behind? Instead of spending money on the next new program, let's invest in what we already know works!

    August 26, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Lisa Shibata

      I attended a one room school and was further ahead in mathematics than my peers who attended a traditional school. If there are only 4 students in third grade and you do not know your multiplication tables, it is an uncomfortable situation. I wish we had more one room schools. Something wonderful has been lost on the way to progress.

      August 26, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • connie

      I agree. Most teachers, those with experience, know what works and what is window dressing: fads/new programs, more layers of bureaucracy and lack of resources/resources spent everywhere but in the classroom. But, what would politicians do without ed bashing? That is why nothing is changing. Another reason is because they ignore teacher nput, unless it echoes their preset agenda.

      August 27, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Richard

      I also went to a one room country school and agree with you. Since the late fiftys and sixtys states have turned education into a big business and in that process have lost track of their purpose. It should be to instill a since of wonder and curiosity, and teaching children how to learn, I think they have lost that objective.

      August 27, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  6. Nicole

    I'm curious if she is actually a certified teacher- it doesn't sound like she is.

    While I like the idea of small schools, research doesn't show them to be superior, and they tend to be very expensive. The research is slightly better for mixed age classrooms when the curriculum and teacher training can support it (such as Montessori and Montessori inspired classrooms).

    August 26, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Sahari

      F*** the research! That's the head that has us cramming kids into rooms, and stuffing info into them to vomit back up onto the standardized tests. Go with respecting the arc of each child, learning to value EVERYTHING instead of one small sliver of intelligence we think we can measure.

      August 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  7. fysherofmen

    There probably are quite a few one roomed schools! There certainly is one in Scranton, PA called The Lutheran Academy! I help run it – and it is so beautiful! grades 1-6 and 1.5 teachers for 15 kids. Can't be beat. But it is still very difficult trying to convince parents about it – unless they actually come and see it.

    August 26, 2012 at 7:04 am |
  8. rh

    Good and bad. Certainly better than many failing schools.

    August 25, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  9. garyschnid

    There is definitely a benefit to this type of school. You don't think that the others aren't listening in when you are teaching a younger (refresher) grade or higher (shows how they will apply what they are learning now) grade???

    August 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  10. Steve

    That is cool. I homeschool and it's a dream to have a place like that to teach in.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • realist

      I'm sure that your family is far to good for public schools, therefore, you're aware that it is improper to end a sentence with a preposition.

      August 25, 2012 at 12:16 am |
      • The Irony

        Should I comment on the improper use of "to" or the comma splice?

        August 25, 2012 at 12:35 am |
      • disgustedvet

        Heh,heh,heh, " The Irony " is overwhelming.

        August 25, 2012 at 12:45 am |
      • 3N1

        Dear realist,
        I also am a homeskooler and choose to homeskool NOT 'cause I am far too good for public skool but for many other reasons. I take it that you are better than us homeskoolerz eh?? Perhaps take some time out to look at the hs vs. ps statistics rather than giving your expertise advice on prepositions, etc. to others.

        God bless! ;)

        August 25, 2012 at 12:50 am |
      • Jdevil1735

        Actually that is a myth and there are numerous times when ending a sentence in a preposition is perfectly fine.

        August 26, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  11. schoolmarm

    went to one of these schools until 5th grade and it was the best education I had!!!! We need to bering them back

    August 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  12. Wolfs2th

    I did attend not 1 but 2. The first was the same scholl my dad had attended when he went and at that time it was all 8 grades. The second was when they split the grades jr/sr. To say some of the experieces we went through would be an understatement. In hindsight it was a wonderful time that provides some headshaking stories and some great chuckles...

    August 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  13. Jim Brody

    Um, couldn't you tell us what town this is in??

    August 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • JW

      Duette, Florida is a town. It is near Wauchula FL in phosphate mining country

      August 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  14. theshoeminator

    That's a shame. I would have loved to attend a school like that!

    August 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • chelebrumley

      Me, too. I had hundreds in my graduating class. Bet I knew 2% by anything more than name.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  15. Odaisy

    Sad consolidation has erased these treasures.

    August 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm |