NEW PARIS — National Trail Board of Education members recognized students and discussed the construction of a new agriscience annex at their monthly meeting Feb. 25.
FFA instructors Eric and Carmen Kennel delivered a presentation to the board and assembled guests about the planned construction of the new agriscience complex. Eric Kennel stressed the complexity of agricultural education.
“It’s not just about plowing the field, but about the science, research, and communication that goes along with that,” Kennel said. “This building is going to give students hands-on experience they wouldn’t have had before, and the chance to see the things they’re learning about in the real world.”
National Trail’s FFA program is operated in partnership with the Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC). 191 students — 86 percent of Trail’s high school student body — are enrolled in the program, according to Kennel.
Fundraising for the agriscience annex began in January of this year. Approximately $34,000 of the projected $265,000 budget has been raised so far. All funds for the project will be collected in the form of grants, donations, and fundraising efforts by the FFA, with the school district expected to cover security and energy costs once the facility is constructed.
The annex will house swine during three-month increments throughout the school year and chickens for six-week increments, though the animals will not inhabit the building at the same time. It will also provide facilities for students to work with the animals and complete projects.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, we want our students to be out doing something rather than sitting in a classroom,” Kennell said. “Our students will have something at their fingertips that no other student has had.”
The planned location for the annex would be south of the main school building, near the student parking lot, though final decisions have not been made.
School board member Greg McWhinney raised concerns about whether adding a new building to Trail’s current campus would be a good investment when so many school districts are phasing out older buildings in favor of building entirely new facilities.
“We’re in a 1968 building,” McWhinney said. “And I know we’ve done a lot to this building. But are we still going to be here going 30 or 40 years out?”
Superintendent Bob Fischer insisted this should not be an issue, citing the extensive work already done to the current school building and the fact that the property contains plenty of room for expansion.
“We’ve done so much work that it’s effectively no longer a 1968 building,” Fischer said. “This building’s not going to go anywhere, and I don’t think our taxpayers would want it to. So I’d say that 30 years from now, we’re still going to be here.”
Middle School principal Jen Couch spoke about the efforts of a new committee to bring the schedules of the school’s four different grade levels into alignment.
“We’re trying to take four different schedules and make them cohesive,” Couch said. “We’re asking ourselves, what is maddening about the current schedule, and what are the problems that need to be addressed?”
Couch previously spoke about these conflicts during the board’s Jan. 8 meeting, saying the schedules make it difficult for different grade levels to share teachers and coordinate events.
“Every grade has its own timeframe, its own schedule, different amounts of time between classes, and so on,” Couch said at that time. “This makes it difficult to share teachers, as well as to coordinate activities with the high school.”
The committee is on the verge of voting on two new schedules, according to Couch: one for fifth and sixth graders and another for the seventh and eighth grade.
“It’s not all one bell, unfortunately,” Couch said. “But it makes sense to have fifth and sixth on the same schedule and seventh and eighth on the same schedule.”
The board also approved the hiring, and accepted the resignations, of several school district employees and faculty members, including the high school’s current guidance counselor. Superintendent Fischer spoke about how the position of guidance counselor has changed over the years.
“The profession has outgrown the name ‘guidance counseling’ and is being replaced by the term ‘school counseling’ in many districts,” Fischer said. “That small change in job title better captures the impact these professionals have throughout the entire school system, not just in vocational preparation.”
While guidance counselors have traditionally helped students prepare for college and work, according to Fischer, recent years have brought an increased emphasis on the skills needed to navigate a changing world beyond high school.
“In the past, primary emphasis was on vocational guidance; on helping students choose their next steps on the career or college path,” Fischer said. “Today, this role has broadened significantly to include helping students develop the career and social skills necessary for success in college and at work. In addition, counselors at the high school level help students build important social and emotional skills as they face an adult world that is growing in complexity.”
Counselors at this level also encourage and support academic achievement, career planning and goal-setting for the future, Fischer said, and use data analysis and other tools to help steer students toward success.
“The counselor’s list of duties isn’t getting any smaller, and neither are their rosters,” Fischer said.
The board also recognized the achievements of a number of students and teams, including Garland Weaver, Seth Duning, Syd Duning, Ethan Pearson, and Kiara Carrell, who earned ratings at the Ohio Music Education Association’s District 13 High School Solo and Ensemble at Lakota West High School on Feb. 8.
Middle School Students of the Month were fifth graders Izak Van Dam, Corban Manlove, and Maya Palmer; sixth graders Lexi Hake, Grace Osswald, and Tori Maglio; seventh graders Cullen Davis, Trinity Rothwell, and Ashley Green; and eighth graders Addison Sparks, Gentry Barr, and Kailey Rowland-France.
High School Students of the Month, meanwhile, were Micaiah Byrd, Malerie Herrmann, Mackenzie Zumbrun, and Grace Good.
The next meeting of the National Trail School District Board of Education will take place Monday, March 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the High School Media Center.