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'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state
Posted at 6:00 AM, May 31, 2024

DECKER — In the vast landscape of southern Montana, the Spring Creek Schoolhouse sits on a hill overlooking the Tongue River Reservoir State Park just outside of Decker.

Five students attended Spring Creek School this school year, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade.

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state

“This school is a great school,” said second-grader Samuel Taylor. “It’s unique from a lot of other schools. It’s not big and has a lot of classmates. It’s kind of cozy and keeps us happy.”

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state
Samuel Taylor

The school's lead teacher, Alexis Nikirk, lives in nearby Sheridan, Wyoming. She commutes to work about 30 minutes every day, something she's been doing for the last eight years.

“It's just shocking how many people find this kind of environment so rare but I’m so used to it," Nikirk said. "It’s a lot, but I love what I do and it keeps me busy, and I love these kids and these families and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state
Kindergartner Dallas Shorb

According to the National Education Association, in 2024 the average teacher salary in Wyoming is $61,979 ranking number 26 in the nation. Montana ranks number 42 in the nation, with an average teacher salary of $55,909, and number 51 for starting teacher pay.

After teaching for 10 years in bigger schools, Nikirk was ready for a change of pace and started at Spring Creek School.

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state
Shae Lawson and Jerimiah Sifeuntez

“It would be hard to ever leave this kind of environment,” she said. “I’m glad to see that our small little school, and that our kids that are out in the middle of nowhere, have potential to do amazing things like the kids in big schools.”

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state

Last week, the students had a full day performing a play for their families and celebrating Jeremiah Sifeuntez as he graduated from fifth grade and will be moving to a bigger school for sixth grade. Sifeuntez was also the overall winner in the state of the Law Enforcement Appreciation contest. Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Montana Highway Patrol Colonel Kurt Sager presented Sifeuntez with an award for his art and brought treats for the class.

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state

“It was a little emotional and I was nervous a little bit,” Sifeuntez said.

While the school may be small, they have a lot of fun and grow a tight bond throughout the years they get to spend together.

“I’m glad to be here and I don’t really want to go to, I want to stay here for my life going to school so I don’t have to go to a way bigger school in Sheridan," said fourth grader Taylor Enders.

'I love this place': Spring Creek School in Big Horn County among few one-room schoolhouses in state
Taylor Enders

With the school year ending last week, all students, except Sifeuntez, will be returning for another year. The school is kindergarten through eighth grade, but many parents move their students to a larger school for sixth grade.

“I just want to say, I love this place,” said third grader Shae Lawson.