Future of FFA program discussed at local school board meeting
By Kendra Whittle, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
BARRY, Ill. (WGEM) -
Residents in the Western School District are fighting tonight to keep farm education in their schools. The school board says they are considering possibly cutting the ag program, due to a funding shortfall.
Wyatt Baker's kitchen table is full of scholarship certificates, plaques, and newspaper clippings, all documenting his four years in FFA. He says, for him it wasn't just an extracurricular. The program changed his life.
"If it wasn't for FFA, I wouldn't have found my love for welding like I do now, and that's what I went to college for and now I'm trying to find a job in welding."
He says, finding out Western could cut the FFA program altogether is frustrating.
"That they were going to get rid of an academic class that could benefit a lot of students."
At Wednesday's school board meeting, dozens of residents, students, and even FFA members from other school districts echoed that same opinion. Among them was Cheyenne Griffith, a Western junior. She says, even before the meeting, FFA members were vocal about getting the word out.
"We got a petition going out for the students. About three to four hundred people signed it
School board president Lorc Weir says the board appreciates the student involvement, and they understand the importance of the ag program themselves.
"As a school board here in a rural community, that's a farming community, these are not popular choices by any means and these aren't things we want to do," Weir says, "If there's a way to maintain these programs and keep our schools they way they are, we're all for that, but with the times the way they are we're going to have to make some tough choices."
Some community members, many of them parents or FFA alums themselves, questioned why the ag program was potentially on the chopping block, as opposed to other extracurriculars. Weir says nothing is off the table just yet.
"We're going to be discussing all programs, including sports, all extracurriculars we will be discussing," Weir says.
Nothing was decided at the meeting. Weir says the board will make a decision in a special session during the week of March 24th.
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