Elkhart schools broke ground on a new $1.6 million construction project for agriculture education this week. Trustees of the Elkhart Independent School District shoveled dirt Monday in support of expanding the district’s agriculture program, which serves roughly 300 students.
The first construction project is an 8,000 square-foot barn to house animals students raise for Future Farmers of America competitions. The second project will double the size of the high school’s current agriculture trades building to roughly 7,000 square feet, allowing more space for welding and construction trades programs.
EISD’s school board recently approved funding and accepted bids from the architectural and engineering firm Goodwin Lasiter Strong of Lufkin and construction company Berry & Clay of Rusk. Both firms have previously designed and constructed public school buildings in East Texas. The timeline for completing both buildings is March of 2022.
Superintendent Lamont Smith, EdD, said the new agriculture buildings will encourage students’ success.
“This program connects kids to projects they care about being engaged with,” Smith said. “I believe when kids are connected to programs they care about that encourages them to perform at the highest levels academically.”
The animal barn will allow more students to participate in grooming and raising animals for competitions, while the expanded construction trades building will house welding, woodworking and construction projects. About 70 junior high and 200 high school students currently participate in the district’s ag programs. The district’s overall enrollment is 1,200.
Smith said EISD has been building its fund balance since 2018 to fund the project.
“We are using fund balance for the project,” Smith said. “We are a fiscally sound district as demonstrated by our ability to add an estimated average of $781,860 to the fund balance each year since 2018.”
Lead agriculture teacher Jordan McInnis said the new facilities will provide more classroom space, enough for each of the agriculture disciplines now taught by four full-time teachers.
McInnis instructs animal science and floral design and Ashlea Crosby teaches welding and ag mech at Elkhart High School while Haley Estep teaches beginning ag science and horticulture at Elkhart Middle School. The high school hired a fourth ag teacher this year, Riley Bonds, who teaches agriculture mechanics classes.
“Thank you to the community and the school board and the administration,” McInnis said.