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Looking out over green fields, it’s easy to forget you’re standing behind a school near Seventh Avenue, a few blocks away from downtown Bozeman. For Headwaters Academy, a private middle school, blurring that line between outside space and an indoor learning environment was intentional.

After more than doubling in size in the last three years, two years in an interim space and a pandemic, the school will welcome students to its new three-acre campus near Durston Road and 10th Avenue at the end of August.

“We try to marry the outdoors with the indoors,” said Dave Provost, head of school.

The property was purchased for about $2 million in the spring of 2019, before the pandemic and the subsequent steep rise in property costs, Provost said.

Work by Walker Construction on the 8,000-square-foot new teaching building and a remodel of the existing structures began last summer. Construction is expected to be finished by early August.

This school year will see about 92 students enrolled at the middle school, with class sizes capped at 16. Provost said there are a few openings for the upcoming school year, but he anticipates those will fill fast.

“We’re near capacity when we open,” he said. “There’s no plans to really grow beyond that now.”

Instead of expanding, the school will look to settle into the campus, Provost said.

The teaching building holds six classrooms, all with doors leading outside. Two of the largest are the art and science rooms. The science room, which gets south facing light for students to cultivate plants, has water and gas connections. The art studio, which gets afternoon light, will include a kiln.

The property also includes a large garage that will be converted into a multi-purpose space and a historic home that will hold administrative offices, communal gathering spaces and a kitchen for students.

The original part of the house, which belonged to the Durston family, was built in 1898, with few additions in its 120-plus years. The design of the historic house was an inspiration for the newer classroom building, with an emphasis on preserving as much as they can of the historical home, Provost said.

Rooms and meeting spaces, including the home and garage, will also be available for rent — the property is zoned as a community center.

With the school surrounded on three sides by a farm, Provost said he hoped there would be opportunities to connect with the farmers and create new learning opportunities for students. Almost half of the 3 acres will remain green space, with garden boxes and native plants going into the ground in July.

“I’ve met a lot of the neighbors and they’re grateful the property didn’t become a development,” Provost said.

The small class size and close relationships between students and the 17 staff members are a key to Headwaters’ education mission, Provost said.

“We can tailor programs to their needs and interests,” he said.

Some of those programs include an emphasis on outdoor education, like skiing, ice climbing and avalanche education in the winter. Each year, the eighth grade class also typically takes a week-long trip to Mexico and returns to research an aspect of their trip.

While an international trip didn’t happen this year, Provost said the students did take an eight-day float trip on the San Juan River in Colorado.

Tuition for the school year is $13,200 and there is an application process, including a couple shadow days of being on campus. With its growth in the past few years, not every student is accepted but Provost said it hasn’t “had to turn terribly many families away.”

Financial aid is available and students are admitted regardless of their ability to pay, he said.

Recognizing the potential for growth in the school and in Bozeman, leadership decided to start the search for a permanent home for Headwaters, which started in 1990. It had for 25 years rented a building near the Montana State University campus on Garfield Street.

Since the fall of 2019, the school has been in a temporary location at Hope Lutheran Church.

With the start of the school on the horizon, Provost said he is excited to have students in the buildings.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what spaces kids naturally gravitate toward,” he said.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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