Luxemburg-Casco’s new Agriscience Center is designed to help students prepare for a rural economy, serve community
LUXEMBURG – The future was the talk of the dedication ceremony for the new Agriscience Center at Luxemburg-Casco High School, but some of its benefits are already being felt in the present.
The dedication, closed to the public because of coronavirus concerns but livestreamed, took place Tuesday evening, April 6, with a ribbon cutting to officially open the center on the east side of the high school building. The center hosted some classes in this winter semester with a full schedule expected starting in 2021-2022.
The facility comprises two separate instructional areas, a 40-by-70-foot barn and a 30-by-50-foot greenhouse.
The barn contains three box stalls to house noncompanion animals during the school day — a horse, a goat and four calves were occupying them for the ceremony, and all of them had something to say at various points during the event — and a chicken coop. It includes an arena-type space where animals can be brought out for teaching demonstrations with bleachers for students, and the L-C chapter of the National FFA Organization and other students can learn how to prepare and present animals for show judging.
The greenhouse features an advanced watering system with automated environmental controls. Computerized machinery controls roof shades to provide the desired light inside and create energy savings by maintaining consistent temperature levels.
The center also has a headhouse, a service area attached to a greenhouse that will be used for aquaponics and hydroponics tables and as a place to start seedlings, and a storage loft.
Outside the buildings, greenery will be planted in the near future that includes fruit trees, raised beds and multiple landscapes.
Justine Selk, the school's agricultural educator and FFA adviser, said the center is a huge step from where her program was when she began teaching at L-C three years ago. Then, the agriscience program had one classroom, and Selk said she bought a hedgehog for the first live animal she was able to use with her students.
"Everybody wanted to get something a little bit bigger. Now we have this," Selk said. "We can bring in a whole cow if we want, we can get these really big animals in. There's going to be a lot more hands-on experience."
The cost to build the center was about $660,000. Money came from two referendum questions passed in April 2018 that authorized spending $27.8 million for major renovations projects at the district's schools.
School district Superintendent Glenn Schlender said the Agriscience Center wasn't part of the referendums, but those approved renovations, which are complete, came in far enough under budget that the district decided to build the center with the leftover money.
Schlender and Selk said the center's ability to offer hands-on, real-life experiences with animals of all sizes and expanded horticultural programming will better prepare L-C students and FFA members for life after high school, whether going to college or into the agricultural workforce.
The school will be able to more easily offer courses that fit with the state Department of Public Instruction's career cluster for agriculture, which lays out common knowledge and skill sets needed for education in the subject, the superintendent said. That's especially important in Kewaunee County, where agriculture is a major part of the local economy.
"This will offer (students) more hands-on experiences, for sure," Schlender said. "If you're taking large animal veterinary science, now we can get one here that you can work with."
He said he expects students in some classes should be able to apply their classwork toward credits or prerequisites for certain classes at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and other post-secondary schools.
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Selk noted the center's amenities will allow the school to offer courses in subjects such as animal and veterinary sciences, expanded horticultural subjects and landscaping, the latter making use of the future plantings outside the center. She said the landscaping course is one of three NWTC courses that L-C plans to offer in the next school year at the center.
"Our mission is to prepare students for agricultural education through challenging pathways," Selk said. "I cannot wait to give our students college and work skills."
While the center has seen limited use so far, the fruits of that use are being seen in the school cafeteria. Students have been caring for chickens in the coop and eggs from the hens are being used by the kitchen, and students planted and grew lettuce in hydroponic pots that was served in the cafeteria the week before the ceremony.
"I think it's really nice that students can see, OK, this seed is going to grow here," Selk said. "A lot of kids got a kick out of that (the lettuce in the cafeteria). They saw the process from start to finish."
The public will be able to see, and purchase, goods grown and harvested in the center in the near future, Schlender said. Flowers and hanging plants now being grown in the greenhouse will be sold to raise money ng with tomatoes grown hydroponically. It is expected to eventually become a large-scale, student-run business.
All that may be why school board President Mike Driedric said during the dedication that the center matters to not just the students and teachers but also the people of the area.
"One of the things that's most important is that agriculture science is vital to the community," Driedric said. "The dedication of this facility is just the first step."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Luxemburg-Casco's new Agriscience Center is designed to help students prepare for a rural economy, serve community