Morton County one-room schoolhouse ready to expand

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 2:19 PM CST
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MORTON COUNTY, N.D. (KFYR) – One-room country schoolhouses may be a thing of the past in many parts of the country, but in Morton County, there’s one rural school that is thriving.

Twenty-seven students are enrolled at Sweet Briar School this year. That’s the most ever.

The simple stucco school has been open since the 1930s, and other than adding indoor plumbing, it hasn’t changed much since then.

Now, there are so many students at Sweet Briar School, they’re planning the first addition ever.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade start the day together with the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the younger kids head downstairs to their classroom, while students in grades four through eight take a few minutes to talk about what they’re grateful for.

Many are grateful for this school and for their teacher, Mrs. McHugh.

Mrs. McHugh has been teaching here for four years. But her connection with Sweet Briar School goes back much further.

“It does feel like home,” Mary McHugh said.

She attended Sweet Briar School as a student, from first grade through eighth grade. Now, she’s the principal and teaches grades four through eight.

“It’s just so special,” she said.

There are 27 students enrolled here this year, including Mrs. McHugh’s own kids.

“My mom knows a lot about this school,” said her daughter, second grader Maggie McHugh.

Others are nieces, nephews and kids of her former classmates.

“It’s so tight-knit. It’s very much like a family,” said Mary.

That feeling of family is what many kids say they like most about their little school on the prairie.

“We’re kind of like a big family,” said seventh grader Harper Elijah.

“Everyone gets along together,” added sixth grader Kylie Wolf.

“We all get to play together and see each other,” said fourth grader Asher Noel.

“All the people in my class treat me like a family,” said Maggie.

As this family grows, things are getting a little crowded.

“It’s a good problem to have to be a little tight,” said Mary.

So, for the first time since the school was built in the 30s, there are plans to build an addition.

“That would provide us a really nice classroom space and then kind of a bonus space,” she said.

That bonus space would give kids more room for STEM projects and group work, and room to create more memories.

Mary McHugh says the Department of Public Instruction has approved the plan, and they’ve been saving money for the project and will take out a loan to cover the rest of the building expenses.