Northwest Angle, Minn., is a community that defies the odds. It is the only place in the United States besides Alaska that sits north of the 49th parallel, the geographic border which divides the U.S. from Canada. The land includes several islands, and residents must travel by boat in the summer, or by snowmobiles or cars on ice in the winter.
The area is also home to the last one-room public school in Minnesota—The Angle Inlet School, which enrolls nine children who commute there by boat, ATV, sled or car from across the community’s islands and the mainland.
Linda LaMie, a former customs official, has taught at the school for more than 30 years. When traveling is too difficult, she says, she sometimes sleeps at the school. She once lived in the building for nearly a month.
“In the winter the commute is actually the easiest – I go by snowmobile,” says LaMie. “It just gets cold. Minus 20 isn’t uncommon. In the spring though, everything melts and this is marshland. The commute gets much harder during those times of the year.”
The education at the schoolhouse is more independent and self-directed than at other public schools, says LaMie. Students are given all their assignments at the beginning of the day, which they can work on in any order. Students of all different ages share the same space, and older students help the younger children.
Tyson McKeever, a 9-year-old third grader, attends the school with his sister, 7-year-old first grader Andie McKeever.
“Of course I like my school, it’s unique. You don’t get lost in the shuffle,” Tyson McKeever says.
His mother, Lisa McKeever, says that she appreciates that the school has a low student-to-teacher ratio. She points out that there is another school two hours away, but she is concerned that the long commute wouldn’t give them enough time to participate in activities, or to make friends.
“It’s a great place to raise kids, but you always worry — are they missing out?” says McKeever.
Linda LaMie has been the teacher at the one room schoolhouse in Angle Inlet for over thirty years. She lives around five miles from the main road in town, and commutes to school by snowmobile in the winter, and by boat in the summer. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Iris Knight, 6, waves to the local schoolbus. The schoolbus transports students from the Northwest Angle to Warroad – a 2 hour commute with multiple border crossings.
Linda LaMie arrives to school via snowmobile on a freezing March morning. Sarah Blesener for TIME
he Goulet family dresses in warm winter clothes before heading outside to play. The Goulet family has eight children, and operate the Angle Outpost Resort in Angle Inlet, offering lodges and outdoor activities such as ice fishing and hunting. They all have attended or are attending the Angle Inlet School. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Payphones are dispersed throughout the Angle Inlet region. Oftentimes, they are used by visitors as the region has spotty phone service. With them, individuals can also check in with U.S. and Canadian customs. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Around 80% of the Northwest Angle is water, leaving most residents to commute by boat in the summer. In the winter, residents use the community-named “Ice Road” to commute from the islands to the mainland. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Students at the Angle Inlet School take a break after sledding outside. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Ava McKeever, Andie McKeever, Iris Knight, Adley Goulet and Emma Goulet stand for a portrait during a weekly “Angle Ladies Adventure Society” in the workshop outside of Sara McGoon, the group leader’s home. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the Angle Inlet School. The school offers personalized studies for the students, allowing the students to structure their own schedule and studies for the day. The Angle Inlet School teaches grades 1-6 for the 100-or so population of the area. Sarah Blesener for TIME
LEFT-Adley Goulet climbs a tree while placing bird feeders around the neighborhood as part of a weekly “Angle Ladies Adventure Society” meeting. Sarah Blesener for TIME RIGHT-The Goulet children play outside in their backyard, which is currently a frozen-over marina. The Goulet family has eight children, and operate the Angle Outpost Resort in Angle Inlet. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Linda LaMie commutes to school at 6:30 in the morning, in -20 degree weather, and has been the teacher at the one room schoolhouse in Angle Inlet for over thirty years. Sarah Blesener for TIME
Want to visit the Northwest Angle for yourself get more info here.
The story originated in TIME.By Tara Law | Photographs by Sarah Blesener for TIME
March 14, 2019