As one local farmer’s wife describes it, Paradise Valley is only good for growing grass… and cattle. That means most of the farming is cattle ranching. The very short growing season prevents growing many commercial crops. If you look closely at the school picture in the header, you will see cattle scattered all over the field to the right of the school.
This beautiful valley is located at an elevation of about 5000 feet (1524 meters) and surrounded by mountains towering to about 11,000 feet (3350 meters). Located in USDA climate zone 4a, summers can be very warm with July and August highs in the low 90s F (30s Celsius). Winters are long and cold with temperatures as low as -20 to -30 F (-29 to -34 Celsius).
Arrowhead School, in Pray, Montana, sits almost exactly in the middle of Paradise Valley. Its nine teachers serve students in grades K-8 . Although it began as a one room school, it now has nine classrooms and a large multipurpose room that can double as a gym, cafeteria or auditorium. There is also a library, an office, and a large playground with a small athletic field. Student achievement at Arrowhead is excellent even though the per pupil expenditure is lower than the average for Montana… a testimony to the high quality of teaching at the school.
Arrowhead School enrollment has varied greatly over the years, depending on the economy. When things were booming and a lot of vacation home construction was going on, there were nearly 200 students. But the recent economic problems have resulted in a decrease in enrollment as families have moved away in search of work. The enrollment in this K-8 school dropped from over 140 students in 2009 to just over 90 students in 2010. Since school funding depends on the previous year’s enrollment, there is a drastic cut in funding for 2011. In general, the community is very supportive of the school, but a special tax election this summer, that would have helped the school through a time of greatly reduced funding, failed to pass.
In addition to farming, the main sources of income for families in the area are tourism, services, and construction. Tourism is important with Yellowstone National Park’s North Entrance just 35 miles South. World famous Chico Hot Springs Resort is located in Pray and employs some local residents. Fishing and hunting are major sources of tourism, with some of the world’s best trout fishing on the section of the Yellowstone River that runs through Paradise Valley. Yes a river runs through it!