Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Snow 31° Snow
News >  Pacific NW

‘I just like the country feel’: Montana’s oldest continually run school gets $112K ARPA grant to upgrade facilities

Sept. 28, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 28, 2022 at 3:49 p.m.

By Megan Michelotti Helena Independent Record

Next to a bee yard, a field of horses and a solar farm rests Trinity School, Canyon Creek’s elementary school, located northwest of Helena.

Students from every grade are outside on the playground for a physical education class together surrounded by mountains, hills and quiet Montana charm.

Jennifer Kueber teaches second and third grade and has 11 students in her classroom. She’s been at Trinity School for 14 years and is now the supervising teacher.

“I was interested in a small school. I had taught multi-age grades before. I started when my daughter started kindergarten (at Trinity School) because I stayed with them when my kids were little,” said Kueber. “…I just like the country feel and you get to have the kids for so many years that you become part of their family. You love them.”

Kueber said Trinity School is the “oldest continually run school” in Montana and has been in operation since 1893. Today, the school is the biggest it has ever been physically and in enrollment size.

The school, at 7435 Duffy Lane, Canyon Creek, serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The largest class is the kindergarten and first grade class with 18 students. There are three teachers, including Kueber, and two paraprofessional educators. Everyone teaches multi-grade classrooms.

A school day for Kueber’s class starts out with journaling. In the morning, students focus on math, reading and share time. They have snack time, lunch and recess. In the afternoon, the class works on science, social studies and/or a special activity like physical education, library, music, counseling and more. They also pick an article of the day to read and write about as a class, and Sept. 23’s article of the day was about thunderstorms and weather safety.

“We’re growing so much. I think we were at 19 the year before COVID, and we’re at 38 now,” said Kueber.

The growth is nice, but Kueber doesn’t want Trinity School to grow so big that it loses its small school charm. Sometimes, she finds herself missing the days when the school was a little smaller.

She told the story of a time when the school had eight kids, and she took her class for an impromptu field trip to go watch her son play soccer for Capital at a state game in Helena.

“I called all the parents and asked, ‘Can we go watch the game tomorrow?’ and they all gave me permission to drive the kids in, and it was awesome,” recalled Kueber. “We got to go watch soccer, and the girls, it was four girls, we just played and had so much fun, and they cheered for the Capital boys. I took them to Costco for lunch, and then, we came back to school and finished up our day.”

“(The growth) is good, but at the same time it’s kind of bittersweet thinking back,” continued Kueber.

At the end of fifth grade, students from the Trinity School District typically feed into C.R. Anderson Middle School and then Capital High School, but that isn’t always the case.

“We had three kiddos … two years ago, one went to Helena Middle School, one went to C.R., and one went to St. Andrew,” said Kueber. “Everyone went somewhere different, and it was just parent choice.”

With all the growth, Montana’s oldest running school needs some updating. Trinity School has received a $112,000 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Direct Allocation Grant from the county — $62,000 for water and sewer upgrades, and $50,000 for two new classrooms. Trinity school will provide local cash matching funds that total $25,000 for the project, according to Lewis and Clark County funding subrecipient agreement.

Currently, water is delivered out to Trinity School because the well needs updating to provide safe drinking water. The school’s septic system was installed in 2013 with a capacity for 25 people in mind. Now, it needs a Level II system that will accommodate 100 people for the continued projected growth.

Once completed, the two new classrooms will house the fourth and fifth grade class, which now has eight students, and Kueber’s second and third grade class. The kindergarten and first grade class will move into Kueber’s old room, freeing up the gym they are currently using as a classroom for more school-wide use.

Construction is happening now at the school. Kueber said the estimated finish date is the beginning of December, but she is thinking it will be around Christmas.

“(I do have old students stop by) or just see them out and about. A few years ago, I had this kiddo come in (to the annual Chili Feed fundraiser at the school), and he’s like, ‘Hi, Mrs. Kueber,’ and he gives me this like wrap-around hug,” she said. “…Everyone grows up on us. They’re stuck with us for so long. I feel like they have good memories, I hope.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.