Jefferson Twp. schools add agricultural education program, partner with MVCTC

Jefferson will build a greenhouse and a barn, plus renovate school space for classes in construction, engine repair, animal care and welding

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Jefferson Township Local Schools broke ground Tuesday morning for a new agricultural education program at Jefferson Junior and Senior High School.

The space, which will include a greenhouse and a barn, will allow the district to teach high school classes on agricultural business, mechanics, and natural resources. Middle schoolers in 7th or 8th grade will also have the opportunity to take an “agricultural exploration” class.

The agricultural education program will be led by teacher Haley Warren, who graduated from Ohio State University this year with a degree in agriscience education. She said the program will begin with an introduction to various aspects of agriculture, including introducing students to FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) as Jefferson High School establishes a chapter of the organization.

“Our plan for the community and for the students involved is to prepare them for various opportunities in the agricultural field and many industries,” Warren said.

Jefferson is the smallest school district in the region, with just over 250 students. Their program will be partnered with the Miami Valley Career Technology Center, meaning students can pursue college credit and other certifications via their participation in the program.

The agricultural education facilities at the school will offer Jefferson Twp. students career tech opportunities without having to travel to an MVCTC program at another school.

“They can still participate in clubs or after-school activities with their friends every day,” said Rusty Clifford, interim superintendent for Jefferson Twp. schools.

Rhonda Phillips, assistant superintendent of the MVCTC, says these career technology programs rely on “developing partnerships” with school districts, as partner schools are the main force in getting students interested in career tech programs.

“Seeing is believing” said Phillips. “[Students] see ‘oh wow, look what these students are doing’ and they want to join in.”

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Aside from the outdoor additions, the rear of the high school building also is being renovated to accommodate spaces for construction, small engine repair, small animal care, welding, and additional classroom space. The project was designed by SHP Architects and is being constructed by Arcon Builders.

Clifford said one challenge to construction has been the recent discovery that the school’s gas main runs diagonally across the planned space. Work is beginning to relocate the gas main before building the greenhouse.

“Other than relocating that, it’s now up to mother nature,” Clifford said. “We get some good, hot weather to continue the construction, and we’ll be in great shape.”

According to Marcus Horner, commercial project superintendent at Arcon, the indoor renovations will very likely be completed by the beginning of the school year. Speed of the outdoor construction is more weather-dependent, but the project will “hopefully” be completed in the next several months, with students able to take agricultural classes starting this fall.

The agricultural education project began last year, with SHP Architects beginning design work in December 2023.

The Jefferson district has been undergoing some transition, as longtime superintendent Richard Gates was placed on administrative leave in April due to a pending investigation into his performance. Clifford retired as West Carrollton superintendent in 2017 and later worked for the county Educational Service Center. Clifford’s interim appointment is currently scheduled to end July 31, when Gates’ contract was set to expire.

About the Author