ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JENNIFER STULTZ
The brain-storming efforts of staff members at USD 411 have resulted in top selection for a state education grant for a one-of-a-kind science, environment, agriculture, and technology (SEAT) charter school at Goessel.
The district was notified of the grant last week by a State Board of Education selection committee.
“We were looking for ways to help kids, ways to be more connected to the local community, and ways to bring more funding into our district,” said Superintendent Chet Roberts.
A tip from State Board of Education member Harold Voth sent thinking in the direction of a charter school, which is a specialized school within the existing framework of a current school. Three Goessel teachers, Justin Schrag, high school agricultural education, Don Dailey, high school science, and Bruce Stucky, junior high science and math and high school math and algebra, came up with the idea of a curriculum centered on agriculture.
When fully funded, the SEAT school will offer students new curriculum in horticulture, water-quality testing, soil sampling and testing, and global positioning systems (GPS) technology.
“Our application was number one out of 20 awarded,” Dailey said. “Probably because this is such a one-of-a-kind proposal.”
The charter school will bring cutting edge technology to the Goessel school system with the addition of more computers for field data collecting and connections to the GPS for soil comparisons. Also a mobile lab with about 10 to 15 stations allow different departments in the school to make use of the equipment.
“That equipment will allow us to take existing content and teach it at a higher level, enabling our students to be more successful in agricultural related careers today,” Schrag said.
Other benefits to students will be actual hands-on learning trips, such as taking water samples from streams and ponds in the area, then analyzing them and studying the results.
“At the junior high level we hope to be looking at a lot of things that deal with our water quality,” Stucky said.
Dailey added that the state highlighted Marion County as an area to be tested.
“Our connections to the community will be publishing our findings and making other services available to them,” Stucky said.
The three teachers agreed that a main goal of the charter school grant was to help student services be a benefit to the community
“We especially pushed for things local,” Dailey said. “We want to provide things that can he used by Bethesda Home, county extension agents, our Mid-Kansas Coop, and even area colleges.”
Schrag said he hopes to have a greenhouse in place in the near future for his ag students to utilize in studying and growing seedlings for area businesses and residents. He also envisions mapping services made possible with the GPS technology that could pinpoint CRP acreage. Another service might be giving farmers fertilizer application recommendations based on soil data analysis.
“We want to develop students that will be proficient farm managers someday, if that is their area of interest,” he said.
At the beginning, Goessel’s SEAT charter school will be available to only students in USD 411.
“We hope to draw more families to this area,” Dailey said. “That would result in more funding for the school district.”
For now, however, Schrag, Dailey, and Stucky are grappling with the magnitude of the district’s windfall.
Funding should be available by summer and the charter school will be up and running for the district this fall. Goessel staff members and other community leaders who had a hand in developing the charter grant proposal included Roberts, Schrag, Dailey, Stucky, Pete Flaming, Stuart Holmes and Jeanette Roberts. Current Goessel students were included in brainstorming sessions when coming up with proposal ideas.