CODY — If you were to walk down the halls of the Meeteetse School with a clipboard bearing the names of all 140 or so enrolled students (though only about 100 are seated within the bricks and mortar) and compared it to the names of the teachers outside each door, you would find more than a few matches.
Seventeen members of the staff either have their own kids walking the halls or have watched them walk across the stage. But if you asked anyone who works for the district which child is theirs, they’d probably give you some version of this answer: “Well, they’re all mine.”
“We knew we wanted to bring our kids here because it’s special,” said Lori Moody, whose family roots follow the bends of the Greybull River. “You aren’t alone, your kids aren’t alone. You get a variety from everybody. It’s a village; we all do it together.”
There may be no place where that is more obvious than the Meeteetse School.
“You definitely form bonds and you have those students that you’re always checking in on, always making sure they’re doing well in college and things like that,” said agriculture teacher Louis Abarr. “I think it’s just one big family.”
It’s a consistent thread for the building that houses every student in Park County School District No. 16. Students check in on each other. Some teachers have knocked down the walls between their rooms and replaced them with a sliding divider so they could work together. The elementary students will wander into high school biology classes for a day. Everyone works together to make the school work.
“Each grade is almost within itself its own family,” said Ernie May, the school’s special education coordinator who has strong family ties in the area himself. “Then you have siblings in different grades, then you have a family that sort of transcends your own grade. You have brothers and sisters taking care of each other. Your groups of kids become family.”
In Meeteetse, the school is the hub of activity. It’s the public pool and the public library. It’s the source of Friday night entertainment during basketball and volleyball season and Saturday afternoon relaxation cheering on the six-man football team. It seems that just about every person in town, even in the midst of a pandemic, can be found lining and filling the bleachers.
The community takes ownership of the students. They check in on how they’re doing, ask if any kid needs something special like new basketball shoes or volunteer to buy meals. They don’t even need to have a child enrolled.
And the students give right back.
“When we had a lady who needed to move a bunch of stuff out of her father’s garage, the football team – she had nothing to do with the school – they just all went over there because that’s what you do in Meeteetse,” Moody said. “You don’t ever get left behind.”