STIDHAM - When Richard Ford graduated from Stidham High School in 1955, he was one of only seven seniors.
"It was a good school," recalls Ford, 75. "Everybody knew everybody. There was a one-on-one connection with the teachers."
The high school in the fertile farm-and-ranch land in western McIntosh County closed 13 years later, in 1968, a victim of declining enrollment and students' need for a school that could provide a wider variety of courses.
The district held onto its lower grades, pre-K through 8, but most of the high school students were sent to Eufaula, 12 miles southeast, or Checotah, 20 miles northeast.
The 18,000-square-foot 10-room school building still stands, an all-but indestructible rock structure built by the Works Progress Administration between 1939 and 1941.
About 125 students attend the elementary and middle school grades, and their parents are proud of the school, which has embraced computer technology to make the school one of the more advanced in the state.
But local folks have long pined for the return of the high school that was the heart of their community.
If Stidham Public Schools Superintendent Bart Banfield has his way, the yearning will soon end. He is leading a charge to resurrect Stidham High School, home of the Redhawks.
"We have a handful of people interested in being on the committee to start the process," Banfield said. "We will meet over the Christmas break to lay out questions and possible answers to the creation of the high school.
"There is a ton of support for the idea, but there are a lot of questions about how we are going to do it - about financing, about accountability. A hundred questions have to be answered."
His mission is to open the doors in the fall of 2013, even if those doors are attached to the local Baptist Church, which has volunteered to let the high school students meet there until a building can be built.
Reviving a long-dormant high school is an ambitious project, one with many hurdles to overcome.
Resurrection is rare in Oklahoma.
"No one has asked to restart a high school since 1990," said Vivian Baber, administrative assistant to state Superintendent Janet Barresi. "It hasn't been common for quite some time.
"But maybe some of the districts are growing and might be justified in bringing back their high school," she said.
Baber has spoken with Banfield and outlined the steps to be taken.
"We gave them a list of things we need from them to form an independent school district," she said.
The list includes such things as a written plan, a fiscal evaluation, an enrollment analysis, the history of bond elections and documentation of community support.
Once all the documentation is received, she will send it to various department heads within the state Department of Education, Baber said.
"They will report back to me if they feel like there is an area that (the applicant) might not be able to fulfill," she said.
Banfield is optimistic that Stidham High School will reopen and will be academically competitive with the biggest schools in the state.
He bases that optimism on computer technology that has leveled the playing field, enabling small districts to provide an almost infinite variety of courses.
"Technology," he said. "It's the great equalizer. We could not even have considered a high school without today's technology, which has torn down the traditional four walls of a classroom."
Banfield sees Stidham "is a mixture of old school and new school."
"It brings the values and traditions, morals, discipline and accountability that you used to see back in the old days, but at the same time, there is a commitment to technology - to online learning, to trying to maintain a progressive mindset to public education," he said.
With an array of computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, iPads and other computer-age technology, Banfield believes that a small high school can provide an education that is equal to that in a large high school.
"They said larger schools could offer (things like) foreign languages that rural schools couldn't," Banfield said.
"But that has changed. Small rural schools like ours offer a learning platform that rivals anything that larger schools can offer.
"Foreign languages? We can offer Spanish, French, Latin and Chinese over the Internet, and I think we're able to do that at a cost-effective rate."
Use of the Internet in education has virtually exploded.
"Look at the number of students taking classes online, full time or part time. It's increasing exponentially. It's amazing," Banfield said.
"Colleges have embraced it, but high schools across the nation are slow to embrace it out of fear - fear of change. Fear of the unknown has tempered a lot of districts from embracing the technology."
Richard Ford, who has been the pastor of the Baptist church in nearby Onapa for 43 years, is elated that there may soon be a resurrection of his alma mater.
"I would be 100 percent for it," Ford said.
"I'd like to see them have it. They may have to add a little more room, but they can do it."
His son, David Ford, and daughter-in-law, Traci Ford, live on a farm five miles west of Stidham. Their 5-year-old daughter, Emily, is enrolled there.
If the high school reopens, their daughter will attend, Traci Ford said. So will their 11-month-old daughter, Daci, when she is old enough.
Traci Ford said she likes the small-school atmosphere, the small teacher-student ratio, the absence of drugs and violence.
She has a 20-year-old daughter, Kara Padgett, who attended high school in Checotah.
"We would have preferred she go to Stidham," Ford said.
She believes that Stidham is far ahead of other schools in the state.
"The state adopted a policy of no child left behind," she said. "Stidham has been doing that all along."
And if Banfield is successful in reviving the high school, there may be a new policy - no school left behind.