RUPERT — The Minico High School agriculture science program has exploded in size in the past four years, and it’s time for its building to catch up.

Four years ago there was one agriculture science teacher at the school; today there are three full-time teachers.

“The teachers will be maxed out with the number of students we can handle in our classes this year,” ag science teacher Jessica Stapelman said.

Agriculture education has changed dramatically in the past few years, Stapleman said. Many agriculture classes meet state science class requirements, which is driving student interest.

“These agriculture science classes are really great,” she said. For instance, the agriculture economics class, which meets state economics requirements, teaches economic principles but applies it to agriculture.

“It applies to the students’ lives,” Stapleman said.

Learning how the community envisions the future of the program is the next step in determining what kind of growth is still needed, she said.

A community advisory committee is reaching out to leaders from local industry and business owners to find out what kind of classes will help prepare students for careers in their industry and to see if the companies would be interesting in partnering with the school program.

“Agriculture industry, which is expanding in this area, is driving the expansion of this program,” Stapleman said.

The school is being told that growing the program is a priority.

“Right now we are very fluid with any plans because we want to hear what the community wants from this program,” Stapleman said.

The idea of constructing a new building has been discussed, she said.

“We are in the planning phase, and we are gathering ideas from the community,” she said.

In the past, budget constraints, among other things, put the program on the back burner, she said.

“In the next five years I hope to see an up-to-date facility,” she said.

The district will start the conversation on the school’s agriculture program expansion during a series of town hall meetings, where the school district will also discuss the November 2018-2020 plant facilities supplemental levy.

The meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Minico High School, Oct. 19, Heyburn Elementary School and on Nov. 2 at East Minico High School.

The agriculture shop is all original to when the school was built, Stapleman said.

“We have really limited internet in the ag areas,” Stapleman said. “We don’t have enough outlets to accommodate all the equipment.”

The agriculture science area also needs a lab where dissections can take place with running water and drains.

There are no restrooms that portion of the school, and the teacher office space needs to be expanded so all three teachers can have offices and meet to collaborate, she said.

Stapleman said the size of the ag shop is adequate, but the layout is poor with a brick wall separating two parts of the shop, restricting the number and size of projects that can be built.

The school’s greenhouse requires the students to trek across a busy parking lot once class starts and by the time ag teacher Troy Bird gets a group of students over there, his 45 minute slot dwindles to 20.

Bird, who comes from a meat processing and fabrication background, said more high tech equipment is also needed in the ag shop to teach students modern welding techniques that are in demand in the food processing industry and upgrades are needed in the greenhouse like new shade cloths and making the building climate controlled.

“A lot of the processing companies around here need welders that can work on stainless steel,” he said.

The program also needs businesses to help sponsor career development events, livestock events and other student competitions, which helps the students excel.

“We really need those partners in education,” Bird said.

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