Nevada school is throwback to days of one-room schoolhouse

GABBS — The two teenagers have struck up an odd-couple friendship that could likely take place in only a few schools across the American West.

Dave Jim is a strapping 15-year-old, a barrel-chested, soon-to-be 11th-grader who weighs 220 pounds. His best buddy Devin Gaither is a plucky 13-year-old who barely tips the scales at 110 pounds.

Both the products of local ranch families, the boys sit next to each other in this tiny rural school, located in the far northern reaches of Nye County, along a desolate stretch of state Route 361.

Gaither, for one, is amazed by their closeness.

“It’s nice to have a friend like Dave,” he said. “If we went to a regular school, he’d probably be one of the kids who’d be mean to me.”

But the Gabbs School is not regular, not by a long shot. It’s one of a handful of academic environments across Nevada with an unusual teaching method: Jim and Gaither are among a dozen students between the seventh and 12th grades with a single instructor, in this case retired Air Force veteran and insurance agent-turned educator Tom Lyman. Down the hall, kindergarten through sixth-grade students are taught by another teacher.

The new school year starts Aug. 13, and buying new clothes and supplies is typically a challenge for Gabbs residents. For Crystal Howell, who has three children attending the school, it means putting the rubber to the road: She and her family must make the 320-mile round trip to Reno — not just to find the latest styles, but anything at all.

“It’s a lot of traveling,” she said. “So we make a day out of it.”

And the road trips don’t stop there. “Once basketball season starts,” said Jim, “we’ve got to drive a long way just to find sneakers.”

Summers spent in an isolated town in central Nevada’s hinterlands, without malls or movie theaters, means boredom is a constant.

For Timothy Howell, a 14-year-old entering the 10th grade, August couldn’t come fast enough. “You get tired of just riding your bike,” he said.

That’s OK with his mother. “The one plus is that there’s not a lot of girls in town, so I don’t have to worry about that,” Crystal Howell said.

Throwback to earlier era

The educational arrangement in Gabbs is a close cousin to the one-room schoolhouses where generations of Nevada pioneers received their educations.

Falling populations in rural Nevada’s mining and agricultural-based communities mean there aren’t always enough students to fill out each grade. That has given rise to what are known as remote rural schools.

“Even though populations drop in these rural communities, we have to evolve and keep pace,” said Humboldt County School Superintendent Dave Jensen, who oversees a handful of such schools in the state. “We have to make sure our kids, even in the most remote locations, are exposed to a 21st-century education.”

For students, that means taking courses via the internet, spending their days peering at a computer screen. Their classroom resembles a collection of home-schooled students who have gathered in one place.

Nye County School Superintendent Dale Norton said the Gabbs School is doing its job. “Parents said they wanted their kids to graduate right there in town,” he said. “They didn’t want them on a bus for an hour and 40 minutes to another high school.”

There are drawbacks to such a no-frills education: no prom, no hallways teeming with teenagers, no Friday night football games and no art or music classes.

‘I can be myself’

But that suits some rural students just fine.

“I’m not really good with strangers. I’m not exactly talkative,” said 16-year-old J.J. Thompson, who is taking some college-level courses. “In regular school, you have to be outgoing. What I like about my school is that I know everybody. I can be myself. We’re more than classmates. We’re family.”

His father, Jim McKinnon, graduated from Gabbs High School in the 1997 class of 10 and now works as the school’s custodian. (His wife, Crystal Howell, is Lyman’s aide.)

McKinnon attended a regular high school with all the major sports. Now he and his wife must fill in the gaps to make sure J.J., the eldest of three children, has a normal teenager’s life. They take him to dances at the high school in Tonopah. “As parents, you have to step in,” he said.

He likes the setup in Gabbs. “This school is what you make of it,” he said. “If you want to succeed, it’s the perfect setup. Kids who aren’t self-motivated get lost in big schools. But not here. In Gabbs, the teachers are here to push you.”

The classroom can be chaotic. Each day, the shirt-and-tie-wearing Lyman fields a barrage of questions. “I’ve got a dozen students, each taking a different course, so I’m dealing with seventh-grade math, eighth-grade grammar and 12th-grade government,” he said. “Geometry isn’t my strong suit, so I end up taking courses like that right along with many students.”

Town soldiers on

Gabbs, named after paleontologist William Gabb, was founded in the early 1940s as local mines competed to meet World War II demand for magnesium fuel. In 1943, Gabbs became a township with a population of 426 and featured a library, a city hall, several parks and a local newspaper. It incorporated as a city in 1955.

In the 1980s, the population reached its peak of nearly 1,600, thanks to an influx of mine workers. At the time, the elementary, middle and high schools drew 175 students, and some classes featured nearly two dozen graduates.

Then the mining economy collapsed. In 2001, the population of Gabbs fell below the level necessary to keep its incorporated status. As people moved away, the grade and middle schools were shuttered, and sections of the high school were closed.

Today, 150 people hang on in Gabbs, which offers a bar, a convenience store, a gas station and a motel. The school’s 2015 graduating class featured four students. The 2016 class had two, and in 2017 and 2018, each graduating class had just one. When Lyman started at the school in 2011, fresh after earning his teaching degree, the high school had four teachers and the elementary school three. Now they’re down to one apiece, with an aide to assist.

“This classroom might overwhelm a 23-year-old teacher fresh out of college,” Lyman said. “But I’m an old fart who’s seen a bit of the world. Still, I don’t do much teaching per se. I just help them understand what’s on the computer screens.”

One morning last spring, the K-6 group met the older students in the hallway in front of the office to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. As an aide helped roll up the flag, the students sang the state song, “Home Means Nevada,” which begins, “Way out in the land of the setting sun/Where the wind blows wild and free/There’s a lovely spot, just the only one/That means home sweet home to me.”

Then the high schoolers filed back into their classroom, past a sign on the wall that harks back to earlier days: “No Cellphones: Any Device that is Visible is Considered in Use.”

But times have changed. “I just never took it down,” Lyman said of the sign. New rules ban social media texting but allow students to listen to music through earbuds once their lessons are done.

Teaching independence

Lyman walks a fine line with his disciplinary strategy.

With an average GPA of 3.1, most of his students are performing at levels beyond their statewide peers. Each must complete several lessons a day, goals divided between morning and afternoon sessions. If they don’t earn a C grade, they must repeat the class. Because they work independently, some finish their lessons early.

“I’m trying to teach them independence,” he said. “And I know if there were too many rules they would rebel. Students will say, ‘I’ve done my work. Why can’t I talk? And I’ll say, ‘Fine, but keep it down.’ It’s working well. The kids are doing great. So I just let things go, as long as it’s not crazy.”

With district money Lyman bought such incentives as a telescope for after-hours stargazing and an Xbox video game system for students with free time. He’s paid for many games out of his own pocket. Twice a day, students break for a half-hour gym session to play basketball and blow off steam.

In this class, there are no hall passes. Students move about freely. If they have to use the restroom, they just get up and go. But Lyman sometimes has to lay down the law.

“Hey guys, no chips!” he says this day in response to the sound of rattling snack wrappers. “Put ’em away, and I don’t mean just stuffing ’em in your mouth.”

After a gym break, freshman Louis Afraid-of-Hawk, a 15-year-old American Indian, took a seat at a study computer in the Xbox gaming room.

“C’mon back,” Lyman told him.

“Nah, I’m gonna work over here.”

“No,” the teacher responded patiently, “you need to come back to the classroom.”

Back in the room, 16-year-old Christa Gentry raised her hand.

“Mr. Lyman?” she said. “I’ve changed my mind. I need help.”

Gentry is one of two girls in the class. A year ago, she played on the junior varsity co-ed basketball team, the Gabbs Tarantulas. She’s self-assured: “I wasn’t much of a scorer. I was more like a wall for them.”

Lyman leaned over her computer and coached her through a few science questions. Later, Gentry told him, “I hate biology.”

“You got it done, though,” he answered.

Gaither is the youngest student here. His cowboy hat set aside, he props his boots on a desk and listens to music on his phone, still dressed in his Carhartt work jacket. Behind him, on the wall, hang posters of a human skeleton and phases of the moon.

He’s done his schoolwork. Now it’s time to be a teenager. When class finishes, he’ll ride his minibike a mile home to his nearby ranch.

Maybe he’ll hang out with his best friend, Jim, theirs an unlikely bond that might not happen anywhere else but in a rural school in a remote Nevada town like Gabbs.

John M. Glionna, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, may be reached at john.glionna@gmail.com.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece. (@FlightAlerts_)
Park Service plans ahead for lower lake levels
National Park Service releases new plans to maintain access to the water as Lake Mead continues to shrink.
Women claim abuse at Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility
Current and ex-inmates, including Merry West, are suing Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility, claiming abuse and inadequate medical care. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Butte County Sheriff's Office Body Cam Footage
Bodycam video from Butte County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Parmley, who was in Paradise November 8 helping with evacuations. (Butte County Sheriff's Office)
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 106
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 160, near Mt. Potosi Road, in Clark County as part of a $59 million, 6-mile-long highway widening project that began this summer. (Nevada Department of Transportation)
Car crashes into Papa Murphy's Pizza shop
A driver crashed a car into a western Las Vegas Valley pizza shop on Tuesday morning, police said. (Joe Stanhibel/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Low-lake-level pumping station nears completion
Barnard Construction and the Southern Nevada Water Authority give one last tour before the new low-lake-level pumping station is activated.
Trailer: Valley of Fires
Sultan’s Playroom from Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada’s Scott Rosenzweig talks about granting Sultan Bouras Souissi’s wish, and what went into building it. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local
NFR- Kory Koontz
NFR Team Roper Kory Koontz talks about his years at the event since 1992, his dynamic with a 23 year old partner Dustin Egusquiza, and how he contines to perform with diabetes with Aaron Drawhorn outside of Thomas & Mack before round 5 of the National Rodeo Finals.
Meet the woman behind the Las Vegas Bowl
Melissa Meacham-Grossman is the associate executive director for the Las Vegas Bowl. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NFR Highlights Day 4
NFR highlights day 4
NFR Introduces Golden Circle Of Champions
For the first time, the National Finals Rodeo has partnered with the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo to offer the Golden Circle of Champions. The event brings in 20 children and their families from around the country that have previously or are currently fighting life-threatening cancer.
NFR Time Lapse 2018
Watch Thomas & Mack Center transform from a basketball court to an arena fit for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Video courtesy of Las Vegas Events.
RJ's Mark Anderson on the UNLV loss
Review-Journal sports reporter Mark Anderson recaps UNLV's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Joel Ntambwe on performance against Illinois
UNLV forward Joel Ntambwe talks about the 18 points he scored against Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Amauri Hardy on loss at Illinois
UNLV guard Amauri Hardy talks about Saturday's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Marvin Menzies on loss at Illinois
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about Saturday's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Baby Roman's mother and his doctor talk about his medical condition
Baby Roman's mother and his doctor talk about his medical condition. Roman was born Dec. 13, 2017 and has been at Sunrise Children Hospital with a rare heart condition since. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
NFR 2018: Unique Gifts At Cowboy Christmas
Before you head over to the Thomas and Mack for NFR, be sure to check out some of the unique and one of a kind items at Cowboy Christmas!
NFR: Dale Brisby
Day two of the National Finals Rodeo has started and Premier Vegas Sports host Cassies Soto interviews social media influencer Super Puncher Dale Brisby.
103-year-old celebrates birthday at gym
Joe Rosa of Las Vegas celebrated his 103rd birthday celebration at 24 Hour Fitness in Summerlin Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. After being the victim of a hit-and-run crash, Rosa's medical team told him he would never walk again. Rosa credits physical therapy and a personal trainer at the club for his return to health. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson native Mason Clements finished second in NFR bareback go-round
Mason Clements discusses his second-place bareback ride on opening night of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec 6, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marvin Menzies on where UNLV stands at this point
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about where UNLV stands at this point in the season. (Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
The Mob Museum
Saddle bronc rider Joey Sonnier earns spot at NFR after overcoming years of drug addiction
Joey Sonnier started saddle bronc riding at 18, but at 20 he began using methamphetamine to cope with the work of the rodeos and became addicted. At 39, after years of addiction and a low point that pushed him to rehab, he's qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Core Arena opens at the Plaza downtown in time for NFR
Core Arena, downtown's first permanent outdoor equestrian center, opens to the public at the Plaza. The arena will be used for events throughout the year, including the 10-day 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas
MountainView Hospital celebrates the opening of the new Sunrise Health GME Simulation Center.
MountainView Hospital celebrates the opening of the new Sunrise Health GME Simulation Center. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
NFR Preps Livestock for the Limelight
NFR’s Jed Pugsley discusses the care that goes into preparing the rodeo’s livestock for Las Vegas’ big event.
Grand Menorah lighting begins Hanukkah
Rabbi Shea Harlig led the ceremonial lighting of the menorah to begin Hanukkah at the Fremont Street Experience. There were also performances by the Desert Torah Academy's choir and the Dancing Dreidels. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Perla Gumm has spent the past few years collecting toys for kids for the LV Rescue Mission
Perla Gumm has spent the past few years collecting toys for kids for the LV Rescue Mission. It's something she started even before the rescue mission was her beneficiary; she just felt a need to collect toys and teamed up with them later. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Marvin Menzies on Cincinnati
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about Cincinnati and his own program. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Joey Logano talks about Champions Week in Las Vegas
NASCAR champion Joey Logano talks about the future of Champion's Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 28, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rain hits Las Vegas Valley
Widespread rain hit the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Valley Hit with Rain, Clouds
Rain and clouds hit the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday afternoon.
Ducks have Lorenzi Park to themselves
Thursday’s rain kept people inside, leaving Lorenzi Park to the ducks.
Kyle Busch Reflects On Disappointing End To Nascar Season
Kyle Busch reflects on disappointing end to his 2018 season during NASCAR Champion's Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 28, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like