GRANTSDALE, Mont. - What was touted as Montana's oldest continuously operating school is getting a fresh look under new ownership.
Grantsdale School closed more than a year ago. Hamilton Christian Academy bought the school and property, and is working overtime to get it ready for classes.
The old public school served students in Grantsdale for 124 years, and is now seeing new life, as a private Christian school, after being vacant since the spring of 2013. Classes start September 2.
Volunteers and paid tradesmen are scrambling to get the school ready on time.
Volunteer Doug Snyder spent Friday cleaning carpets in classrooms.
"There is a priority to get this school open," said Snyder.
The Academy will serve students from preschool to 9th grade, with plans for expansion on the 5-acre-plus landscape.
Head of School Stephanie Beck said the school hopes to add 10th, 11th and 12th grades by 2018.
Beck said there are 57 students registered, which is about 10 more than there were at the old school in Hamilton.
Preschool teacher Brigitte Conner was busy organizing her classroom for the fall. She expects a busy year with a full student load.
Paul Beck is Stephanie's husband, and is a general contractor. He told NBC Montana that remodeling an old school has been "fun and challenging."
He points to new windows that were installed to open up the entrance to more light.
"We wanted it to feel welcoming when you first come in," said the contractor.
Beck said his favorite project was rebuilding the old stage.
"We really want to encourage music and drama," he said.
Abby Beck has been doing a lot of painting in the school. Most of the painting work is done.
On Friday, when we met workers, crews were removing electrical equipment to make way for a new 9th grade homeroom.
There are plans to plant a "praise garden" near the entrance, with trees, shrubs and flowers, and plaques commemorating contributors. There have been many volunteers.
"We've seen churches, business groups and over 100 individuals helping with the project," said Stephanie.
The Academy is affiliated with the Assembly of God Church, but many denominations have become involved. Members of Grace Lutheran Church painted playground equipment. A youth group from Everett, Washington volunteered time. So did a Bitterroot Boy Scouts group.
Stephanie Beck said the school plans a community celebration in October.
When Grantsdale School closed, its students consolidated into Daly Elementary in Hamilton.