Small school growing

MORTON COUNTY, N.D. - A small school in Morton County is preparing for some big changes, even beyond this summer. Sweet Briar School has a change in leadership next year, all while the school is growing in size.

Down a dirt road west of Mandan, lies a humble two-classroom school that is still in use and starting to grow. Sweet Briar School is kindergarten through eighth grade with 22 students, four faculty members, and one bearded dragon named Beardy Shadow.

"Sweet Briar School opened in about 1917 and there were three different buildings. This particular building burned down in 1936, and then they rebuilt this building in 1937,” Principal Sherilyn Johnson said.

Historically, enrollment wouldn't get into the high teens. Over the 11 years that Johnson has been serving at this school, the number of students has increased from 8 to 22. And they believe those numbers aren't going down anytime soon.

"There's a development in the area and not all the students are in our district. The student to teacher ratio is much smaller than other schools and I think that attracts some people. And, I mean, the students have always gotten a good education from here," said Travis Wolf, school board president.

Thanks to grants and commitments from parents, Sweet Briar was able to upgrade their classroom technology.

Even more changes are coming.

This is Johnson's last year at Sweet Briar because she's retiring. During the kindergarten graduation, she couldn't dodge the frequent hugs from her students.

"I just want to thank all of my students and the Sweet Briar community for being an important part of my life for the last 11 years, and that it's been a real joy and honor to work as Sweet Briar School. Sweet Briar School is a wonderful school," said Johnson.

Despite enrollment nearly tripling in the last decade, the school said they're confident they have the space and resources for their students.