Jefferson City Public Schools' new curriculum for next year includes an expansion of agriculture career courses for middle and high school students that will feed the need to provide opportunities for interested students — especially in animal science.
"Historically speaking, our agriculture program here, students are more interested in the animal side of our ag program, compared to our plant side, so we look at that," Nichols Career Center's Director Sharon Longan said.
The K-12 curriculum that JCPS' Board of Education approved last week for the 2019-20 school year included new Nichols courses for high school students in Agriculture Leadership; Broadcast Media II; Floral Design; Food Science; Landscaping/Turf Maintenance and Management; and Vet Science.
Nichols current Assistant Director Cody Bashore — who will succeed Longan this summer upon her retirement, and currently supervises the career center's agriculture department — added that students at Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson middle schools will also be offered "Exploring Agriculture" courses.
All of the new high school courses, except for broadcast media, fall under Nichols' agriculture program curriculum, Longan said.
"We have been putting a lot of effort into filling out our ag program and wanting to offer courses that connect to career pathways, obviously, (and) that would garner some interest and fit within our schedule. We always talk about curriculum choices with our advisory committee, so that's one way that get input into that," Longan said.
She said part of the reason students have been historically more interested in the animal side of the ag program is because "we don't have as many resources for our plant side, as far as lab resources," by which she meant not having a green house — which, Longan added, the floral design course doesn't need in order to be successful.
At the middle schools, Bashore said there will be two ag classes in the morning at Thomas Jefferson and two more in the afternoon at Lewis and Clark.
The Nichols agriculture teachers instructing those courses would travel from one middle school to the other, he said.
"We're really excited about that, trying to reach out and try to provide opportunities to those middle school students as well that have an interest in agriculture," Bashore said. He added the middle school programs could become feeders for the classes at Jefferson City and Capital City high schools.
"We've never ventured into the middle schools, but we think it's something that really provides them with more opportunities that they wouldn't normally have," Bashore said.
As with the middle schools, those career courses would be taught by Nichols instructors, but at the high schools.
Helias Catholic High School students are the only non-JCPS school sending students to Nichols who take agriculture program classes at the career center, Longan said — all the other sending high schools involved have their own ag programs.
Longan said the other current agriculture program courses at Nichols that are part of that career pathway — including an introductory course, conservation, animal and plant science, horticulture, small and specialty animals, and agricultural business and marketing — would continue.
The agriculture program does not have an internship component, but Bashore said all National FFA Organization member students have to do a Supervised Agricultural Experience project that has the essence of an internship — "whether that's raising chickens or if they raise cattle; it really can be anything."
"We are always looking at partnerships and how can we partner with industry, either here at school, on site or on their site," Longan said. She noted the current small and specialty animal course's partnership with the Jefferson City Animal Shelter as an example.
"I look for that partnership to expand, because it will with our vet science class," she said, adding both courses will be offered.
"We've got more courses than we could possibly offer within one year now," Longan said, but added that's not a bad thing. Course offerings will just have to be more cyclical — maybe one course offered one year, and then another course offered the next year, based on interest and enrollment — and students will have to plan accordingly, she said.
The K-12 curriculum approved by JCPS' Board of Education last week also included a new high school honors biology course.
Courses that were revised as part of the approved curriculum included metals technology and woodworking. Brian Shindorf, the district's chief of learning, said students in those classes wouldn't necessarily be offered new curriculum opportunities by having new or renovated facilities at the district's high schools, but students would benefit from the new environments and new equipment.
High school social studies curriculum remains to be approved by the school board, as most of the board postponed approval of it last week over concerns about the district's recommendation to make world history an elective option instead of a requirement.