School Board Plans New Livestock Facility and Cannery for Highschool

Published 4:42 pm Saturday, August 12, 2023

The Sumter County Board of Education reviewed plans to build a five-million-dollar livestock facility and cannery for students on August 7th using ESEA funding. The project has been approved by the Department of Education and would include expenses for soil testing with excess to cover equipment. Details are currently subject to change, and an architect will not be officially chosen until August 28th. The current proposal the board examined would be a combined 2,660 square feet for both facilities, though the exact details are subject to revision. The current plan also includes a thousand-square-foot meeting room, Ag facility, and two cattle pens. The plan also includes a concession stand and teaching facilities.
Superintendent Knighton said the facility would serve students in intermediate school, middle school, and high school.
When interviewed, the chair of the board, Sylvia Roland, talked about the decision to build the facility, speaking about student engagement with Future Farmers of America.
“We have a strong FFA program already in place, and we want to expand the kid’s desire and interests and so we felt like that would be the next logical step for us because they go to many judging competitions during the year and part of what they do is judge livestock, cows, pigs, and we wanted them to have that ability to not only judge but have the competitions here.”
Ms. Roland said the FFA had a well-organized program that also promoted other skills like public speaking. She expressed hope that the cannery would allow students to participate in more FFA projects and could be used in conjunction with a community garden.
The school has two FFA teachers at the high school level and one middle school FFA teacher, resulting in student participation in FFA from an early age.
“We have a national award winner for our FFA program. He is heading to college now. We’re extremely proud of him. FFA teaches so many skills, but the AG part is just one part of it.”
Ms. Roland said that once the facility was built, it would be the only one of its kind in Southwest Georgia. She expressed hopes that the facility would encourage more students to come to the county since students from outside the county can apply to come to Sumter County High School.
The facilities are part of the school’s hands-on focus on building career skills in students. The high school’s college and career academy has 13 pathways, including autobody, nursing, culinary, and marketing training. The focus on Agricultural careers is due to projected growth in agricultural jobs and a desire to train students for local industry. Ms. Roland summarized the motivations behind the program.
“The kids need to know skills, and this is an agricultural community, so it made a lot of sense for us to do FFA and the Ag barn and stuff like that because they can go out and get jobs in that field.”
Soil testing of the site by third-party inspection at the cost of $17,975 dollars has been approved prior to construction.