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Lone Peak High, Ophir School, and Discovery Academy gear up for the school year

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Lone Peak High School's new STEAM lab will open this school year and offer new curriculum. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY


Classroom bulletin boards are up again with new names in Big Sky schools as the summer comes to an end. Big Sky School District begins classes on Monday, Aug. 28 and Discovery Academy kicks off the year one week later on Sept. 5. 

This year, schools are welcoming new staff from various places and backgrounds. Brittany Shirley, lead learner and principal of Ophir Elementary School is excited to welcome new staff members, who have been in orientation for the past week. 

“Most of them have always had a dream to live in Big Sky,” Shirley said, explaining that on top of finding stellar teachers, Big Sky School District gets to bring people to the town who are passionate about the community and area. “It’s just a really good crew of people who are excited about making a difference. We have an incredible team.” 

Six new staff members will join the team, with 195 students enrolled so far in the elementary school. 

This is the second year of BSSD’s 4-K program, a kindergarten for four-year-olds at Ophir. Shirley explained that the 4-K program is being refined further this year.

“Our 5th graders did a lot of collaborative learning,” Shirley said. Fifth graders helped in the 4-K classroom, building relationships with students by assisting in activities and lessons.

As for challenges, Ophir Elementary is taking an “all hands on deck” approach to improving literacy in all grades. 

“We’re working really hard as a team this year to make sure that all the kids get the foundational reading skills,” Shirley said. According to research from Brookings and other institutions, public schools across the country have seen negative impacts of COVID-19 on students’ academic progress.

Shirley said that her team at Ophir will continue to use scientifically based and rooted approaches to bridge the gap and get students back on track. 

Discovery Academy sees more students each year

Discovery Academy is a private school in Big Sky’s Town Center that takes a Montessori approach to learning. The school has grown from eight kids during its first year in 2014 to 80 students for this upcoming school year, 12 of which will start in January. 

Library in one of Discovery Academy’s classrooms. Teachers in both Big Sky School District and Discovery Academy have been putting together rooms for new students. PHOTO BY JEN CLANCEY

With the school’s growth, the academy has brought on nine new staff members, seven of whom are filling new positions. Discovery Academy recruits nationally, Poloff, head of schools at Big Sky Discovery Academy explained, noting that teachers are coming from Alaska, Spain, Texas and more. 

“I feel like what they bring to the table are different perspectives and different experiences from parts of the United States, or different parts of the world,” Poloff said. Aside from recruiting teachers that are in tune with modern classroom teaching methods and technology, Poloff also thinks that the varied backgrounds of teachers allows students to build better relationships. 

“For us to have a high school math teacher who’s from a small town in Alaska… he brings that understanding of living in a winter climate, hunting, fishing, small town feel…there’s layers of 

things that he can talk to our kids about,” Poloff said.

New facilities to enhance Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School

Big Sky residents may have noticed the construction that’s been happening at the Big Sky School District. As construction crews complete the new science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) laboratory, middle and high school principal Dr. Marlo Mitchem is excited to see how the space enhances learning. 

Finishing touches are being put up on Lone Peak High School’s construction. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

“I always look forward to seeing the students back in the building!” Mitchem wrote to EBS. “This year is exceptional because of our new facilities; we know the students are going to love their new learning environment.”

With a fresh new look comes new innovations to schedules and available courses. 

“We have two primary goals as we start the year. Launch our new curriculum with our metal and wood shops and the CAD design and video editing lab in the new building,” Dr. Mitchem continued: “Two, successfully implement our new rotating schedule and flex time in the middle and high school. This new schedule will enhance the student experience in the classroom and will allow them to pursue their passions.” 

Welcome new teachers and staff to Big Sky! 

Discovery Academy new staff: 

Maeve Clinton, School Counselor

Carly Wilbur, Early Childhood Classroom Teacher

Kaitlyn Batzloff, MS/HS – Science

Simon Estes, MS/HS Math

Kate Denniston, Elementary Classroom Teacher

Bailey Lesiak, Early Childhood Classroom

Noemi Duffy, K-12 Spanish

Evan Escue, Elementary/MS Math

Brodie Long, Early Childhood Classroom Teacher

Jennifer Howells, Early Childhood Classroom Teacher

Ophir Elementary new staff:

Christine Toy, Kindergarten

Ati Wimmer, Grade 1

Maggie Angell, Grade 1

Kenidid Campa, Grade 5

Susan Dahinden, 4K-12 librarian

Karen Schreiber, library/health enhancement (HE)

Big Sky School District Middle and High School new staff: 

Devin Doeblin, – Resource Teacher, Grades 6-12

Kate Beaudoin, – Middle and High School English

Upcoming Events

september, 2023

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23sep12:00 pm4:00 pmLPHS Soccer vs. Lockwood High School12:00 pm - 4:00 pm Lone Peak High School

23sep5:00 pm8:00 pmLPHS Volleyball vs. Gardiner5:00 pm - 8:00 pm Lone Peak High School

24sepAll DayHistory & Geology of the Taylor Fork(All Day: sunday) Event Type :EducationEvent City:Big Sky

26sep5:00 pm9:00 pmWine and Dine Tuesdays5:00 pm - 9:00 pm Rainbow Ranch Lodge & RestaurantEvent Type :Other