Holtville High May Add Third Ag Teacher To Expand Ag Program

Holtville High May Add Third Ag Teacher To Expand Ag Program

Holtville High School may soon be getting a third agriculture teacher for the first time in its history. Maybe.

A state grant has become available that would allow for the hiring of a third teacher for the next three years, and expansion of the ag program at the high school and possibly beyond.

The grant would be in the amount of $400,000 to $500,000.

“They keep changing the number on us,” HHS ag teacher Lindsay Cox told the school board at its monthly meeting Monday night. The subject was presented as an informational item for the board, with no action taken.

The grant would cover the cost of the teacher but there wouldn’t be a lot left to cover needed upgrades to classroom facilities. For the time being, the ag department’s old computer lab could be used, Cox said.

She said that the focus would be on advanced classes like ag biology and chemistry, courses that are “on the books” now but aren’t currently offered to students. One of the things the classes would do is give students a big head start towards immediate employment after graduation.

Food safety is a big part of agriculture and is growing. The classes would help students obtain certificates in the field that could allow them to go right out and be hired.
School Board Trustee John Hawk was worried about having enough students to fill the classes. He pointed out that in the past, there have been ag classes with as few as eight to 12 students.

One of the things the grant might do is help expand the ag program in Holtville schools to lower grades, creating a feeder program to build interest in classes at the high school level. The new teacher could have a class at the middle school level, if credentialing issues can be worked out.

Cox said that there are 45 schools in California with ag programs at the junior high level, and that is expected to jump sharply with the expected official approval of such a program at the state level soon.

She added that the new classes are the type that may reach students not normally interested in ag and Future Farmers of America, and are usually popular because they offer students hands on activities.

Trustee Kevin Grizzle said he is skeptical about the future of the cattle industry in both California and the Imperial Valley, but sees the need for training and certification in plant science.

“These jobs are here right now,” he added.

The matter will likely be brought back before the board soon. As Cox pointed out, the typical window for hiring new ag teachers for the fall has already past this year. But she said there is some interest out there in Holtville.

The school’s FFA chapter was recently recognized as being in the top 20 chapters in the state, coming in at 18th among more than 350 schools.

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