Agriculture school prepares for Sept. opening

EPHRATAH- A new agricultural-based Pathways in Technology and Early College High School is on track to open in the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville School District this fall.

Superintendent David Halloran said the district is finalizing an agreement with the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services on the rental of classrooms at the David H. Robbins school in St. Johnsville.

“In the weeks ahead, I will be asking the OESJ Board of Education to enter into a multi-year agreement with HFM BOCES to rent the David H. Robbins facility when the details of the agreement have been settled,” Halloran said in a report to residents.

Specifics such as the exact amount of educational space required, costs associated with cleaning and maintaining the facility, technology infrastructural needs and other items such as food services and health care needs are still being determined, the release said.

There is still a possibility BOCES may be interested in renting additional spaces for special-education classes, Halloran said.

BOCES pays an established regional, non-negotiable price of $9,800 per room for the rental of classrooms, Halloran said.

“I am not looking at the rental of Robbins as a potential revenue stream for OESJ, because I believe the profit margin will be relatively small. What I see primarily is a great opportunity for regional kids (including our own) who are interested in the agricultural industry. I also see it as an opportunity to see a facility that is near and dear to many residents continue to be utilized as an educational institution,” Halloran stated in his report.

PTECH allows students to receive college credits during the four-year high school program and have an opportunity to obtain an associate degree after high school graduation.

While attending FMCC during their high school years, some students may take State University of New York at Cobleskill classes at FM. After high school, some students may attend the Cobleskill college to finish the two-year college degree.

Students in schools throughout Fulton and Montgomery counties can apply for the program starting this month. Students can enter the program in their freshman year of high school.

Another PTECH program is based in Johnstown at the Jansen Avenue School. That program, which focuses on technology, received a grant three years ago.

A second grant will be used to start the new agricultural PTECH in the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville district.

Kristy Shafer has been appointed the new Agricultural PTECH principal. Shafer is a former technology education teacher for OESJ.

“This opportunity was the perfect match for me. I have been engaged in project-based learning and am familiar with teaching core content through projects in areas like construction and technical drawing,” Shafer said.

Working as the Mohawk Valley FFA co-adviser opened her eyes to the opportunities that exist for students in agriculture, she said. This past summer, Shafer worked with HFM BOCES to encourage business partners to participate in the state grant for the program.

“Meeting with local agri-businesses further solidified my belief in this school and its practices,” Shafer said.

Halloran recommended Shafer.

“She’s got a lot of energy. She’s smart and a go-getter. I think HFM selected the right candidate. I look forward to working with her housed a quarter-mile away,” Halloran said.

According to Halloran’s report, there has been discussion about using the PTECH facility as a satellite college campus for the State University of New York at Cobleskill in the future.

“This area has a rich history of agriculture, and we hope through our partnerships with local businesses that this grows,” Shafer said.

Before the program opens this fall, Shafer must continue recruiting students and creating presentations and application materials to visit component schools in the HFM BOCES region. She will talk to eighth-grade students about the Agricultural PTECH.

She will hire staff, do curriculum development, professional development for all staff, course pathway planning with colleges, business partner relationships, and develop a summer program.

“The potential for a positive impact on the village of St. Johnsville is noteworthy as well. It is safe to assume area restaurants, gas stations and other various businesses will see increased patronage as a result of DHR being open for regional business,” Halloran said.

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