Hyder students get to stay in U.S., skip B.C. classes

Posted: Friday, August 18, 2000

For the first time in 59 years, Hyder students won't have to cross the border to go to school.

Under an agreement between Alaska and British Columbia's Coast Mountain School District, students from the 140-person border town had been attending school in Stewart, B.C., two miles and one country away.

The school bus route included a stop at Customs each morning and afternoon for a head count.

In Stewart, the Hyder students learned Canadian history, French and metrics. They took Canadian holidays and automatically were excused for American holidays. Alaska paid extra so the Hyder students would be taught some American history as well, but the American seniors graduated with Canadian certificates of education, said Sharon Bishop, one of the Hyder parents who pushed to have an American school for her three daughters.

"They can't even graduate Canadian school and get into college because the credits aren't up to par," Bishop said. "With the academic level going so low over there, we had to do something."

Amy Bishop, 9, knows the capitals of all of Canada's provinces, but can't name all 50 U.S. states "because I haven't been taught them," she said.

This year she will, since Hyder parents convinced the Southeast Island School District to open a school for their children in the Hyder Community Association building. The two-story building is in the middle of the 10-block town, next to the library, basketball court and jungle gym.

Paul Larkin, administrator of the Hyder Community Association, welcomes both the $1,500-a-month rent the school district will pay and the regular use of the building.

"Most of the parents are very excited about having a local school, and I think the kids are looking forward to it also," Larkin said.

But some students, like Tami Bishop, 16, dread leaving their friends and the extra-curricular activities that come with a 200-student school for the much smaller school in Hyder.

"For social things like basketball teams, drama classes and all that it's going to hurt us because there's only going to be 12 kids in the school," Bishop said.

Hyder has enough students to warrant a school. Over the past five years the town has sent 15 to 20 students to Stewart for school each year. But the Southeast Island School District warned that the state will stop funding the Hyder school if enrollment drops below 10 students. Then students would have to be home-schooled.

Thirteen students are expected to attend the new Hyder school this fall, including one senior, Jimmy Simpson. The town librarian, Caroline Gutierrez, is prepared for his graduation next June.

"I have a cap and gown here already," Gutierrez said, "so when any of our kids graduate from any school home school, GED they get Pomp and Circumstance' played on kazoo and they get to wear the cap and gown."

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