Crane Union High School
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About Crane Union High School

By Eric Cain, Producer

Crane Union High is unique.

It serves the largest school district in Oregon, a whopping 7500 square miles in the southeastern high desert. Yet so sparse is the population, that this whole area generates a student body of fewer than 100 kids.

Crane is one of the oldest residential public schools in the country. And the fact that most students live on campus during the week creates a small, tight-knit community that’s quite unlike anything found at other high schools.

But what drew our OPB crews to Crane was the prospect of learning more about the students themselves: Who are these kids from the most remote households in Oregon? What’s life like for young people so rooted in tradition, yet connected by satellite TV and the internet to all the trappings of the modern world? How do these young people view the rest of the world and what might the rest of the world learn from them?
Many of these students hail from isolated ranches as far as 150 miles from the school, far-flung outposts of the Wild-West independence and individuality. But they grow up knowing they’ll be leaving home at about age 14 for boarding school. And once there, entrenched in dormitory life, Crane students live in very close quarters in a regulated environment, where privacy barely exists.

These are some of the most rural kids in the state – maybe the country – and they are buffered from many of the hazards and distractions of urban life. But they are also denied some of its benefits: There’s no Powell’s book store here, no hip-hop music venues or R-rated movies, few ethnic minorities, or vegetarians and very little international anything. But there’s a definite up-side to this lifestyle, too. A typical day is packed with activities. Students can compete on just about any sports team they choose to and break horses after school for work-study. And with all this comes an extensive support network, a tight-knit community of friends and neighbors.

"Three Days at Crane” is not a definitive study, but rather a “snapshot” of student life in and around the school. And far from drawing conclusions, this program probably raises more questions than it answers. But it’s fascinating. It celebrates the character and personality of these kids. It’s an entertaining – and sometimes riveting – look at a cross-section of rural young people, a group of Oregonians that is virtually unknown to most urban folks. These are great kids, interesting kids, and their faces and words will stick with you long after this show is over.