Every day, 90 students attend high school in a pole barn east of Cass Lake.
The facility, originally designed for industrial uses and converted 30 years ago, has housed decades of classes at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig, a small school run by the Leech Lake Band of Odjibwe.
There's mold in the carpet and bats in the roof. When the wind kicks up more than 40 mph, all 90 students have to run across a few parking lots to the elementary complex in case the whole thing comes down.
"It's not a good place for learning," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
Jewell, along with a few other federal officials visited the school Tuesday, drawn by poor student achievement numbers and a long list of structural issues.
Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig is one of four tribally run schools in the state, and 183 across the country. They're all funded by the Bureau of Indian Education and operated like a very large school district -- one that's plagued, Jewell said, by poor test scores and crumbling infrastructure.
Jewell's office is in the process of drafting a six year plan to fund, rebuild, and restructure the schools. The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig visit acted as sort of a fact finding mission.
The group got a tour from Benjamin Bowstring, the man in charge of upkeep at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig. He described his days, spent trying to keep the building functional. In the winter that means insulating pipes and chipping away at ice dams. In the summer he's placing buckets under sections of leaky roof and chasing off the local bat population.
School Superintendent Crystal Redgrave said she tries to limit the number of students in the high school building, but doesn't have the space or the staff to handle everyone in the elementary school.
After the tour, Jewell pledged to lobby Congress to fund a new $25 million high school building. Hopefully, she said, a better facility will lead to better learning.
According to Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, who was also on the tour, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig is emblematic of issues faced by the whole tribal school system. Right now only 15 percent of the school's 197 students are up to state reading and math standards. Just over half make it to graduation, but the situation isn't actually that rare.
"I'd like to say this isn't common," he said, "but I can't."
Of the nation's 183 tribal schools, roughly 60 are in poor repair. Just to bring them all back to acceptable condition, Washburn said the BIE would have to shell out roughly one billion dollars.
"This isn't something we can do in a year," he said.
Maybe not in one year, but Jewell hopes it can be done in six.