BICKLETON -- Being small is a big deal at Bickleton High School, where school is held four days a week and the class of 2012 has just three graduates.
Small? Perhaps. Unnoticed? No way.
Bickleton had the state's top pole vaulter and 110-meter hurdles champ for division 1B track this year. Class salutatorian Nic Venema holds those honors.
And the school also rates No. 1 in Washington on results for last year's mandatory proficiency tests.
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The Bickleton Pirates will celebrate their achievements Sunday afternoon with valedictorian Aymie Osborne and classmates Veneman and Konrad Grabner receiving their diplomas.
Osborne plans to pursue education at Central Washington University, where Venema intends to study wildlife management.
Principal Rick Palmer said the high school, with 30 students, is doing well after switching to a four-day schedule more than two years ago.
The principal said the school, which teaches kindergarten through 12th grade trimmed the week as a strategy for economies and efficiencies.
"We have 500 square miles and run on a bare-bones budget as it is," Palmer said.
He said the state allowed small districts, including Bickleton and Paterson, which is about 50 miles east, to switch to the four-day model as a pilot project.
It not only saved money on transportation costs and utilities, but also brought unexpected bonuses.
"Our attendance rates went up, the morale of staff and students elevated, and the test scores improved," Palmer said.
While the change means extended days for education, which cuts into midweek extracurricular activities, the payoff is worth it academically, Palmer said.
"There is more quality time with teachers and students, which is better than having more time, with interruptions, having school on five days," Palmer said.
Sports activities end up being Fridays and weekends, he said.
And the four-day schedule will continue another three years because the state renewed the pilot program, he said. The rural area, where it isn't uncommon to find sixth-generation families still on the same land, takes pride in its home-grown achievements, noted Ada Ruth Whitmore, a longtime resident and community historian.
"We just learned we were top in the state out of 333 schools (public and private) on the state tests," Whitmore told the Herald.
Kim Clinton, who teaches all the math classes at Bickleton, said all 11 students who took the High School Proficiency Exam and End of Course Testing last June passed. That gave Bickleton a combined score of 100 percent for the two tests, which was the only perfect score for the statewide rankings.
Palmer noted that Bickleton usually isn't on the state list because it takes at least 10 students tested to consider the results reliable.