Kalispell’s commitment to education is literally written in stone. A new high school, a remodeled existing high school, and a renovated and expanded middle school are overwhelming evidence of our pursuit of excellence in educational opportunities for our youth.
In 2007 Glacier High School opened its doors for the first time, making history as Kalispell’s new second high school. Counting the ninth graders which were housed in the junior high, Kalispell’s high school enrollment has been at approximately 2,500 for more than five years, the biggest enrollment in the state.
With the addition of Glacier High School, enrollment is now divided between both schools, benefiting everyone with smaller classroom sizes and greater opportunities in sports and activities.
The national movement toward the use of “career clusters” in K-12 education was introduced in both high schools in 2007, encouraging students to concentrate on areas of study focused toward a career path and post-high school plans. The career cluster model is designed to help students develop a five-year plan while exploring their areas of interest and skills.
Both Flathead and Glacier High School will give freshmen a jumpstart with Freshman Academy – an innovative student and teacher team approach to help them transition into their high school careers by focusing on core academics, good study habits and character building.
The new $35 million 243,000 square-foot Glacier High School campus features a commons area, seven science and computer labs, performance hall, blackbox theater, and porticos with magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
GHS students also have the opportunity to enroll in Advanced Placement classes, a set of rigorous, college-level courses taken for both GHS and university credit. Students may choose from a variety of AP course offerings as part of their full course load.
Outside there are four football/soccer fields, two softball fields, and a track practice facility, with tennis courts planned in the future. GHS teams step onto the field as The Wolfpack.
Flathead High School is the only high school in the state to earn accreditation under the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and began offering complete coursework in 2004. A challenging and comprehensive, two-year college preparatory curriculum for juniors and seniors, the program fosters a global understanding, responsible citizenship, and culminates with a diploma recognized for excellence throughout the world.
FHS was given the highest ranking possible, “Gold,” by Expansion Management in 2001 – the only school to be so awarded in Montana – placing it in the top 18 percent of high schools nationally. In 2007, it renewed its accreditation status with the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools.
With the addition of Glacier High School, Kalispell will now be represented by two AA sports programs, a challenge the schools’ coaching staff has welcomed and planned for accordingly. Sports attract broad-based support in the community and teams have made the AA playoffs and been nationally ranked for several years.
Flathead High athletes have won the All Sports Trophy eight times, the symbol of overall excellence in Montana sports.
The speech and debate team has set the regional benchmark for forensic excellence. Strong programs in music and drama, award-winning vocational agriculture and engineering, and opportunities for students to pursue college credits and applied vocational programs through Flathead Valley Community College foster an environment for academic excellence.
The Running Start Program is a partnership between Kalispell’s high schools and Flathead Valley Community College that allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college classes and earn dual credits. Highly successful, Running Start is a unique, affordable program for motivated students to get a jump on their college careers.
Kalispell Junior High School is now Kalispell Middle School for grades six through eight. Driving the class reconfiguration was the need to keep freshman students with the rest of the high school student body, while transitioning middle school students more effectively into their high school years.
The building’s $11 million expansion was completed for the 2007-2008 school year and includes a new 8,000 square-foot gym, 24,000 square-foot classroom wing and commons/cafeterium.
A team concept is emphasized at the new middle school. Students will combine into teams and are paired with a teaching team for their core classes. Sixth graders will stay together during their day, while seventh and eighth graders have their own class and lunch schedules.
Additionally, there are five private elementary schools and three more with both elementary and high schools.
The Kalispell Montessori environment focuses on high academic standards with an individualized program catering to each child.
In 1999 the new elementary campus, Kalispell Montessori Center, was built, with a new west wing added in 2005. It offers first through sixth grades.
Woodland Montessori School is a State of Montana fully licensed day care which offers early childhood education programs for children ages 27 months through kindergarten.
St. Matthew’s Catholic School, founded in 1917, offers a Christian-based education for kindergarten through eighth grade within its parish community. With an average class size of 16 students and student-to-faculty ratio of 11 to 1, St. Matthew’s offers a child-centered education.
Stillwater Christian School, founded in 1980, has an enrollment of over 300 students in middle and high school. It also offers a Christian-based academic program, is a member of the Montana Christian Athletic Association, is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, and maintains a local chapter of the National Honor Society.
Kalispell is also home to more than 550 registered homeschooled children.
FVCC is the fifth largest public college in Montana, and one of the most affordable. It is a source of community pride and record-setting enrollment, and retains an exceptional, talented faculty. In fact, 30 percent of them have doctoral degrees. The campus serves 10,000 people a year and boasts a student-to-teacher ratio averaging 16 to 1. Students can receive Associate of Science, Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees as well as certificates.
With 40 occupational programs and more than 30 transfer programs, more than 95 percent of its graduates land jobs in Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties. Over 50 percent of them go on to pursue advanced degrees in their field of study. In fact, many four-year and graduate level programs are offered in partnership with Montana state universities in Bozeman, Billings and Great Falls.
Fueled by a decade of growth and new trends in post-secondary education, FVCC completed a $19 million expansion project in 2009.
Students moved into the $4 million 25,000 square-foot Occupational Trades Building in 2007. Answering the national demand for job-centered education the center features bays for the college’s welding, machines and metals, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, electrical and carpentry programs.
A new agreement with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry allows students’ education to count toward both apprenticeship work experience and education hours which the state requires for electrician licenses. Considered a milestone for the State Labor Department, it is the first partnership between the agency and higher education in Montana.
The $10 million 61,500 square-foot Arts and Technology Building includes an art gallery, plaza, arts courtyard, instructional kitchen for the college’s culinary arts program, photography darkroom and studio, 200-seat blackbox theater, and large community room.
The new $1.4 million campus Early Childhood Development Center, with a learning lab and childcare facility for up to 60 children was dedicated in March 2008. FVCC students, employees and community members are now able to access excellent early childhood programs for their children.
New programs in nursing, radiologic technology, medical transcription, paramedicine and surgical technology have also been added in recent years. FVCC also initiated a new practical nursing program. With an emphasis in the growing field of geriatric nursing, the program addresses the opportunities for licensed practical nurses in long-term care and assisted living facilities in the Flathead Valley, as well as other transitional care units.
The Continuing Education Program offers a diverse slate of courses. Along with Kids’ College summer class offerings for elementary-and middle-school children, the Continuing Ed Program provides the community with life-long learning opportunities and cultural enhancement.
FVCC is fully accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. It serves over 10,000 people a year through its credit, continuing education, partnerships and four-year degree partnerships including Montana State University-Billings, University of Great Falls and University of Montana. It also maintains a satellite campus in the City of Libby, 90 miles northwest of Kalispell.
Images provided by CTA Group and Karl Neumann Photography