Members of the public called  for bringing back agriculture and industrial trade related classes to Tehachapi High School at the Tuesday, Aug.14, regular school board meeting.

“I feel that not having agriculture classes available to me could affect my ability to get a job, get a scholarship, or be accepted to an agriculture-based program in college,” said Moria Loyd, who attends 8th grade at Jacobsen Middle School. She hopes to continue her experience in raising animals and seeks a career in this field.

She added, “There are many kids that aren’t good at sports, music or art and an agriculture program would help those kids to take classes that benefit their interests. The reality is that students need to be pursuing these sciences now and not having the available classes is really just giving our students a late start in comparison to other school’s in the valley.”

John Lantz, a Tehachapi resident spoke at the meeting on advocating for welding classes being offered for high school students.

“It’s a shame when they don’t get the opportunity in our education program to go to school and start learning some basic fundamental uses of those other areas of they could be a genius in,” said Lantz.

These classes would help those not interested in pursuing a communication or english related major. Programs in agriculture, mechanics, horticulture, soil and animal science and welding could help students already have a trade, if they would not be interested in furthering their education in some other field, said Lantz.

He added, “With the current education focus we have, students are virtually left behind if they are not going to or they are not able to go to college and this leaves a hole in our society, when it comes to students becoming workers after high school, other than working at a fast food restaurant as an example.”

Agriculture classes, and industrial arts such as welding and small engine technical classes were once taught at THS, but funding was cut in 2009 when the recession appeared and interest was not strong, said Scott Heitman, principal at THS after the meeting.

Heitman added at that time there were only 50 to 70 students and only one teacher when the programs ended.

School board member Mary Graham said at the meeting that even though there were programs in the past, she believed they stopped due to lack of funding, leadership and interest in the program and she was in favor of placing it on a future agenda. Board member Joe Wallek agreed and even went further to say a feasibility study should be recommended as well.

Other advocates spoke in favor of bringing back old programs like Future Farmers of America at THS to help provide students experience in showing and caring for animals. There are two barns on the THS campus that can be used for these purposes.

Michael Leishman, agriculture teacher at Highland High School, who attended THS, asked if an item could be placed on the agenda allowing a presentation on how the programs could be funded, what would be taught, and how classes could meet general college requirements.

Michael Lara, a student and participant of the FAA program at Highland High School, said that showing animals has helped him improve his grades, given him pathways for a career, and developed leadership skills.

In order to bring back these programs, factors need to be addressed, said Heitman. 

“If we can do it, I’m in support of it. It’s about finding the teacher with the proper credentials and finding the kids that are going to enroll in the class,” said Heitman.

A teacher may have to be willing to work part time for classes to start up and an estimate of 135-150 students would need to be interested so full time instruction can be offered, said Heitman.

An estimate of numbers voiced by attendees at the school board meeting showed more than 30 students interested in animal and agriculture related classes. These numbers were taken from various 4-H groups in the Tehachapi area.

Heitman added that at the present time the district is working in phases with Cerro Coso Community College for dual and concurrent enrollment in welding for high school students and slated to start offering training January 2019.