MAYFLOWER The rural Mayflower School District has finally gotten its “ducks in a row” to offer an agriculture program to students and will break ground on a building for the program this month, Superintendent John Gray said.
“We’ve been the only school district in the county that hasn’t had one,” Gray said of the Faulkner County public schools. “I’ve been working on it the whole time I’ve been here, about six years.”
The school board approved a bid of $742,082 from Dayco Construction Inc. of Damascus, the contractor for the 3,003-square-foot metal building that will house two classrooms and a workshop area.
Gray said the district received a state-partnership grant of $280,000 to go toward the project.
Gray said the curriculum will include an animal-husbandry program and agriculture mechanics.
“We have a very strong ag contingent in our community … and kids competing in the shows in 4-H, but they haven’t been supported in the school by an ag program,” he said.
He said agriculture mechanics will be designed around students working with farm machinery and being self-sufficient on a farm.
“It’s not just a matter of a person jumping on a tractor and planting a crop,” he said.
“It’s just other career opportunities we can train kids for,” he said.
“We teach a variety of skills — one of the main ones is welding,” Gray said, which could be a useful skill in several jobs, including the natural-gas industry.
“The last time I checked, about half the kids that graduate go to college, and about half [of those] get a four-year degree,” Gray said. “Three-fourths of our kids in the state aren’t graduating from college; therefore, they need some career fields, so we’re trying to add agriculture to our program to provide some career opportunities for kids interested in that.”
Leigh Helms, county extension agent for 4-H youth development, said there are two 4-H clubs in Mayflower.
“Any agriculture-based program would be a complement and an asset to the school district because agriculture is the basic element of our lives, from the food we eat to the tires on our vehicle,” she said.
The program will give students opportunities to learn more than just agriculture, Helms said.
“They learn basic life skills, such as public speaking, responsibility, management, social skills — [for careers ranging] from veterinarians to sales people at the feed store.”
Gray said the district is advertising for an agriculture teacher, who will start July 1, and the program will be in place in the fall.
The facility will be built on 80 acres the district already owns west of the current high school, Gray said. The property is the site for a new high school planned for 2025, unless the district grows faster than anticipated.
At the same time the agriculture building is going up, Dayco will construct a 3,806-square-foot softball/baseball practice facility at a cost of $501,950. The metal building will have dressing rooms, an office for the softball coach and an indoor practice area.
The projects were bid together, Gray said, for efficiency and for a more competitive price.
The architect firm designing both projects is Jackson Brown Palculict Architects of Little Rock.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.