GRANTSDALE, Mont. - It was the last day of school in Grantsdale, just like it has been about this time of year, for the past 124 years. Only this time, it really was the last day. Grantsdale Elementary closed its doors for good.
Budget cuts have forced consolidation with Daly Elementary in Hamilton.
So, the little school with the big bell said goodbye, Grantsdale-style.
Grantsdale Elementary kids will forever remember the day they tugged on the old school bell, leading the entire community in celebration. These youngsters know they are unique.
"I feel honored we were the last graduating class," said outgoing fifth grader Janice Gingerich.
They've known for a long time the school would close. But the final day hit hard.
"I'm hugging students from 20 years ago," said veteran teacher Sheila Berkley, "and I have students this year whose parents I had in school."
Muriel Gooder came to the celebration. She's an alumna from the 1930s.
Patsy Lovely Tompkins came too. She started school at Grantsdale in 1946.
Alumni Wes Plettenberg and his son Cody Plettenberg came for the picnic and celebration.
Rosie Anderson McConnell, Shirley Anderson Sylvester and Patty Anderson Ehli all came for the celebration.
The Anderson sisters went to school at Grantsdale in the 1960s.
"It's a wonderful grassroots community," said Patty.
It's one of Montana's old pioneer communities too.
Shading the playground is the hitching post great-great grandparents tied their horses to.
Students and members of the entire community celebrated with songs and dances, and rang the bell for everyone to hear.