Population booms overwhelm Montana schools

Lisa R. Parker

BELGRADE, Mont. — Nearly every classroom at Story Creek Elementary School offers sweeping views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains that surround the Gallatin Valley here in southwest Montana.

But on a recent spring morning, most teachers kept the roller shades in their classrooms down, hoping to focus students’ attention away from the nearly nonstop construction happening next door.

Lori Degenhart, principal of Story Creek, which opened a new campus last August, scanned the sunny vista from a second-grade classroom that overlooks swiftly vanishing ranchland. Bulldozers and dump trucks were clearing the way for an estimated 7,000 houses that will fill with families over the next few years.

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