New facilities are once again coming to Porterville Unified School District high schools.
In the fall, construction will begin at Strathmore and Monache High Schools for new facilities within their agriculture programs. Both are 12-month projects expected to be finished in the fall of 2022.
At Strathmore, the district is building a Strathmore Technical Agriculture Research Center for the Emerging Agricultural Technology (EAT) Pathway, said Cynthia Brown, PUSD Director of Student Pathways.
“Their facility will include $6 million worth of construction of a new building that will include six classrooms. It’s (an) all high-tech plant, soil and leaf agriculture science research lab facility,” Brown said.
The research center will be located adjacent to the Spartan Farm Market and is funded by a Career Technical Education Facilities Grant from the California Department of Education. A CTE Facilities Grant was also used to fund the new Career Technical Education (CTE) Justice Center at Granite Hills.
With the completion of this facility at Strathmore, the district believes students can further expand their knowledge and experience within the industry.
“They’re learning about growing the crops, selling the produce in the farmers market for the real-world business environment experience — farm-to-table concept — but then with this new facility, the essential research for robust production through the soil analysis and plant analysis is crucial. So students will learn all the high-tech scientific research and data analysis that today’s farmers are using in agri-science,” Brown said. “So we’re very excited about this new proposed building and the classroom experiences students are going to have.”
Along with expanding students’ learning experience, the new research center also allows more students to enroll in the EAT Pathway.
“With six additional classrooms, as well as additional research science labs, this will offer an opportunity to expand the capacity of Strathmore High School and provide these experiences, these high-level learning experiences to more students,” Brown said.
Modernization and new construction are also coming to the Monache site-based Ag Program via funding from the CTE Facility Grant.
“We wrote a CTE Facilities Grant in order to support and expand and update the Monache agricultural program,” Brown said. “It has a different focus than the Strathmore ag program, but it’s going to meet the interest and the needs of our students. Because ag is very popular and it’s our largest industry in our Central Valley, so we want to prepare those students for the real world.”
“It includes higher technology of today’s ag, but it’s more focused on mechanized agriculture,” Brown said about the Monache project. “So ag mechanics, higher-level advanced manufacturing. And that aligns with a high demand for skills in ag mechanics. It’s going to help build out what we consider an outdated ag mechanics workspace and transition it into a more advanced level mechanized agricultural facility. So it’d be a great upgrade to the indoor plus we’re going to expand it out for more outdoor welding, conducive for the welding, large hands-on projects, higher-level modernized machinery that’s used in today’s ag world, and manufacturing and metal fabrication.”
Brown co-wrote the grant proposals for these projects, as well as Granite Hills. She said with writing the proposal, they were supported and informed by PUSD Superintendent Nate Nelson, the school board, site administration, teacher teams, Porterville College, Fresno State, Cal Poly, UC Davis, and more.
“On both of those grants, our advisory boards, and our industry partners, they have been champions and leaders in the whole process of putting this grant together,” she said. “Great input in what the students need to be learning that’s aligned with today’s industry and workforce. So, very authentic.”
There are 14 Pathways within PUSD and the three site-based Ag Programs at Monache, Porterville, and Granite Hills. Accordion to the PUSD Pathways website, the Pathways boast an impressive 99 percent graduation rate with 92 percent college attendance.