Montana City School might have saved a buck on lawn mowing this week.
A small group of cattle moseyed on to the rural school's athletic fields Tuesday, having slipped through a gap in a local rancher's fence and discovered a culinary appreciation for the school's lawn care.
"We've had black bear on the property, we've had deer, elk, we've had horses," Montana City superintendent Tony Kloker said. "This was the first time the cows showed up."
The K-8 district, located about halfway between Helena and Clancy, isn't alone in adventures with wildlife and livestock. Bozeman High School had a black bear actually enter its building in 2019; two years before that, a student at Hawks Home Elementary near Ekalaka was looking for insects when he came face-to-face with a 90-pound mountain lion in a culvert, according to a report in the Ekalaka Eagle newspaper.
Wildlife and animals often come up as a side note during talks about school safety. Schools are required to have safety plans, but dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has largely blotted out other conversations this year.
Like many districts, Montana City offered separate remote learning and in-person options going into this school year.
One might forgive the cows for being confused; perhaps they didn't realize the district was offering virtual learning during the pandemic?
In all seriousness, the nearby Ashgrove Cement Co., helped round up the cattle quickly as local folks worked to figure out who they belonged to. As the district is encouraging outdoor classes during the pandemic, securing the grounds is a priority for the school.
To clean up after the cattle herd, the district's maintenance staff leader, Jordan Beasley, had to pull out the shovel and wheelbarrow, though the younger students got a kick out of the notion that the cows were simply trimming the grass.
"(Beasley) said, 'Ah, the lawn mower just broke,'" Kloker said.
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