Managing & Evalutating School Design and Construction

Site Visit to Willow Creek, Montana

How does a school affect its community?
Willow Creek Public School, Montana

Willow Creek Public School in Willow Creek, Montana, is struggling to survive. This school, built in 1926, is the main structure in Willow Creek. A K-12 school, it serves approximately 55 students. As one of the five smallest schools in Montana, efforts have been made to close it due to cost. So far, the town has managed to convince the state legislature to allow it to remain open.

Jeanette Dubyak in front of Willow Creek Public School
Visiting with a Willow Creek Graduate & Student

Willow Creek, Montana, is also struggling to survive. The town, which is surrounded by ranches, houses an art gallery, a café and saloon combination, and a garage. The rest of the town of about 250 residents is residential. The nearest gas station and grocery store are located in Three Forks, about six miles to the north. Without Willow Creek Public School, the town would lose much of its identity.

Willow Creek Sign

The school itself sits on one of the most picturesque sites imaginable. Engulfing a city block, the facility faces Main Street at the front, and has tremendous views of the Tobacco Root Mountains in the rear.

Football Field

Mr. Ben Beaudry is superintendent and principal. The faculty is twelve strong, with most teachers having responsibility for more than one grade level or subject area.

There is one-half day kindergarten, grades 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 are combined classes. The seven high school teachers (7-12) teach English, history, math, science, art, music, band, business, PE, and family and consumer science. There is an half-time media specialist. Additional services, such as special education, school nurse, and school psychologist, are provided through co-op services with surrounding governmental entities. Hot breakfasts and lunches are served daily. Students in grades 7-12 are allowed to leave campus for lunch, but may not drive.


Under the leadership of Mr. Beaudry, the school has acquired outstanding technology access. There are two computer labs, teacher computers, student computers, and a telephone in each classroom.

Computer Lab
Computer Lab

Students participate in many extracurricular activities. Many of the students participate in team sports through a co-op agreement with nearby Harrison School whereby they become members of a Willow Creek/Harrison team. The school has its own basketball and track teams. Many of the schools they play are 80 to 100 miles away. A recent novel by Stanley Gordon West, Blind Your Ponies, set around Willow Creek School, describes the impact of the school and its teams on the community and its residents.


The school enrollment is very transient, with only about 1/3 of the students returning each year. The 2002 class had five graduates. As the town changes from an entity of its own into a bedroom community for Bozeman, thirty-five miles to the east, its character and stability are also changing. The survival of both the school and the town are dependent on each other.