Elementary Evolution: Where to go for K-5 in Bozeman

By: Justice Geddes
According to one school-ranking website, Longfellow Elementary School here in Bozeman is the 18th best elementary school in the country, while Emily Dickinson doesn’t make any top twenties. Or top one hundreds. Or anything. It only receives three stars by most standards in comparison to Longfellow’s five. But does it matter?
“The schools you go to really affect who you develop into,” says junior Grace Bryant, an ex-Longfellow and Sacajawea student.
Do the schools you attend affect your social and academic success in high school?
Hawk Tawk staff asked BHS students, teachers, and parents, finding a plethora of perspectives, but also some overriding themes.
In general, students who attended Morning Star, Longfellow, Dickinson, and Hawthorne for elementary school and Sacajawea for middle school are more satisfied with how their earlier schooling prepared them for high school, while those who attended Irving, Whittier, private, or rural schools felt less prepared.
In the words of Katie Lee, who attended Learning Circle and Headwaters Academy (both small private schools), “when I got to high school, I didn’t really know very many people, so I guess I was prepared academically but not socially.”
This was a common opinion among private-schooled students.
Students who moved into the district late, like sophomore Betsy Workman, felt similarly: “you don’t make a lot of friends when you move from school to school all the time,” Workman said.
Another agreed-upon fact: the students and staff who you spend your time with as a young child affect your future personality, opinions, focuses and convictions.
Numerous BHS students agree that students at Irving, the elementary school well-known for its racial and ethnic diversity due to its proximity to MSU campus, are generally more accepting and open to an array of cultures and thinking styles; while Hawthorne, the “arts” school, produces numerous artistic and musical leaders- like Kaito Irizarry and Olivia Langan.
However, this can have significant negative effects as well. Multiple students stated that Morning Star, a fairly elite, well-funded elementary school (due to its placement in well-funded neighborhoods) has produced most of the biggest bullies at BHS. According to BHS attendees, the economic supremacy of Morning Star students (the only elementary whose parent organization has its own website) means that many Morning Star kids feel entitled, or superior, to students from other schools, which they say has led to future conflicts.
In the words of Chloe Loeffelholz, an ex-Morning Star student, “It was a good school…’cause everyone was kinda rich. In choir, if your mom was in the PAC, you would get the solos.”
In recent years, these conflicts have intensified and fluctuated with the introduction of school districting. If a student lives within the boundaries of the district of a school, generally separated by major streets and subdivision borders, they must attend that public school, or they can apply for open spaces at one of the other schools. Just last year, new boundaries were approved, forcing numerous students to switch schools with the addition of Meadowlark Elementary.
Unfortunately, the growth of Bozeman in recent years means that those open spaces are very limited, so there are large waiting lists for several elementaries. Some schools’ student bodies are composed of students from nicer, more expensive subdivisions.
Hawthorne has Summer Ridge, and Morning Star has Triple Tree, among others. These schools in nicer areas are the ones that are consistently ranked the highest. And these schools seem to produce the most “highly ranked” high schoolers.
But even more distinct, and perhaps important, is the obvious gap between Bozeman schools and other Montana schools.
For example, freshman Shaciah Lee: “I did not like the school system at Belgrade because the people were mean. And I felt like my skills weren’t valued there.” Parent Jessica Amende: “I was glad that we moved into the Bozeman school district…they were more willing to adjust and make positive changes. It was less stagnant in regard to enrichment. They were just excited about education.”

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