Twin Bridges School Board wrestles with budget, adding new program

The Twin Bridges School Board continues to look into re-establishing an agriculture education curriculum and addressed the issue at their school board meeting last week.

However, one of the biggest hurdles to starting a new program is the budget, said Twin Bridges superintendent Chad Johnson in an interview this week.

“The board has been look at adding an ag education, FFA program – I think they’ve been looking at it for quite some time,” Johnson said. “We just don’t have enough information.”

The last agriculture education program in Twin Bridges was in the 1980s, but that turned into an industrial arts program, he said. Since then students haven’t had FFA or agriculture education options.

Like other schools in the county, Twin Bridges is worried about a potential budget shortfall from last year’s funding level, depending on what happens at the state legislature.

“We’re on a holding pattern kind of until the legislature decides how they’re going to fund schools this year,” Johnson said.

At this point, the worst-case scenario would leave Twin Bridges between $45,000 and $50,000 short of last year’s funding, he said.

Funding is going to obviously have an impact on whether or not the school is going to be able to start a new program, Johnson said.

The Twin Bridges School Board has formed a committee to investigate an agriculture education program including curriculum, costs and scheduling, said board chairman David Ashcraft.

“We have surveyed the students, surveyed the community and had numerous public meetings about it,” Ashcraft said.

So far, the response from both students and the public has been positive. Concerns have arisen about funding and potential cuts to other programs.

Ashcraft wouldn’t speculate where the board stands on moving forward with implementing the new program. It’s just too soon yet, he said.

“The board is waiting to see what our funding levels might be and where we might be able to find funding at both the state and local level,” Ashcraft said. “Until we have some more definitive numbers from the legislature as to our funding status, there probably won’t be a decision made.”

It used to be that the FFA program was more about livestock and tractors, but that’s all changing, said Kristen Swenson of Silver Star. Swenson is the president of the Montana FFA Alumni.

“FFA used to be known as plows, sows and cows and it’s not that anymore,” Swenson said.

Current agriculture curriculum looks at things like resource management, wildlife habitat, agriculture business and economics, she said.

As the school board and its agriculture education committee continue to research the potential of adding the program, Ashcraft encourages comments from the community, as does Johnson.

For more information on the agriculture education program call the school at 684-5656.

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