Bente Winston, a teacher in her native Denmark before moving to Missoula, founded Sussex School in 1970 as a progressive preschool that operated as a parent cooperative. The Sussex Preschool officially opened its doors in January 1971 at 212 West Sussex Street, and by 1974, the school had expanded to twenty students from pre-K through 5th grade. By 1980, Sussex had thirty-six students in grades K-8, and it moved to its present location at 1800 South 2nd St. West. The school quickly became recognized for its creative, child-centered curriculum, receiving an Excellence in Education Award from the U.S. Department of Education in 1988. That same year, the school unveiled a new auditorium, built with funds from its first capital campaign.
Thom Garrett succeeded Winston as the school’s Director in 1991. Under his leadership, Sussex received a “Breaking the Mold” award from the U.S. Department of Education and launched its second capital campaign, adding a spacious art studio, a new building with two large classrooms, and a courtyard interspersed with flowers, stone walkways, and trees. Under the leadership of Robyn Reed Gaddy, who succeeded Sanders-Garrett in 2007, the school has added two new buildings comprising an up-to-date science lab, seven classrooms, and a kitchen for the school’s students and staff. As a result of the construction project, Sussex became Montana’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified school. The school is now being led by Greg Friedman who has taught for over 20 years in grades K-12 in Los Angeles, Colorado, Honduras, Bangladesh, and Denmark. Friedman joined Sussex in September 2015.