Benge School District

Benge School District: Quality comes in small packages
By Steve Witter

It has occasionally held the title of the smallest school district in Washington. No more. With 19 students in grades K-6, the Benge School District is roughly twice as large as it once was.

The arrival or departure of even one family can cause a noticeable swing in enrollment. What it lacks in numbers, however, it easily makes up in spirit. Benge, located a half-hour southeast of Ritzville in Adams County, is the little engine that could – and does.

The district provides its students a well-maintained campus that includes two comfortable classrooms, all manner of modern technology, a gymnasium, a recently completed greenhouse and an attentive staff that – no surprise – provides abundant doses of individual attention. 

Bob Moore is officially employed as the superintendent and lead teacher for math, science and history. In the unofficial “other” category, he is also the district grant writer, technology director and assessment coordinator.

At his side are Martha Heidenreich, who teaches English Language Arts; Lori Graves, who handles transportation, food services (three days a week) and maintenance-custodial; Lenny Graves, who assists with custodial; and Karen Allen, who teaches music and covers food services the other two days.

The group is small, but effective. Moore alone has secured a host of grants including a recent $729,952 award providing comprehensive energy improvements. Facility updates included new ceiling and wall insulation, energy-efficient windows and a state-of-the-art heat pump system replacing a 62-year-old boiler. Energy savings are projected at nearly   a quarter-million dollars over the life of the heat pumps. 

Don’t think for a minute that being small and rural means disadvantaged. If anything, Benge staff members take pride in offering their students as much, if not more, than their counterparts in larger districts. Success also is seen in Benge “graduates,” who compete well when moving on to middle and high school in Lind-Ritzville and Washtucna. 

Educational technology is an area of particular strength. School resources include interactive smartboards, high-speed Internet, 18 desktop computers and 15 iPads. That translates into more than one technology device for each student.
From Interstate 90, it is a quiet, peaceful drive to Benge on State Route 261 and East Ralston-Benge Road. At the end of the drive, tranquility is replaced by the bustle of 19 engaged, inquisitive learners. It is a very distinct sound; a little like that of a distant train. It is the collective sound of a little engine that could – and does.