EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this article was first published, AFHS Principal Dan Weishar has announced the FFA programs will be maintained at the school. “Each of your emails and phone calls have been very helpful in our decision process,” Mr. Weishar told FFA supporters in an email. “We look forward to build a lasting program that will be outstanding for the Home of the Caveman.”
A Facebook post by the Future Farmers of America’s local chapter at American Fork High School generated over four hundred reactions, most of them negative.
“After nearly 100 years of Agriculture Education at American Fork High School, we are saddened to announce that the school has decided to close down the Agriculture program,” the post read.
The Alpine School District has confirmed that the program at American Fork High School would no longer be offered in the 2019-2020 school year.
Kimberly Bird, of the District, said the decision was not based on funding but mostly students’ interests, as the school juggles teachers’ full-time equivalencies. Full-time equivalency is a full-time teacher's teaching load against that of a part-time teacher.
Enrollment figures provided by the District highlight the students’ drop in interest. Enrollment in the four agricultural classes are currently standing at 11, 21, 22, and 24, while the same instructor's other two classes in greenhouse and horticultural were at 30 or higher.
Teachers in the Agricultural program don’t tend to stay, Ms. Bird said. The FFA instructor has decided to transfer to another school, making it the fourth teacher to do so in the past five years.
While it’s unclear why fewer students are interested in the program, it could be the latest sign of changes in American Fork and its transformation from a farming and ranching community, as its youth is now more technology-centric than ever. Ms. Bird said class enrollment is growing in subjects like computer sciences, medical terminology, anatomy and forensic science.
The District said that starting next year, American Fork students can take agricultural classes at nearby schools such as Lehi, Skyridge and Westlake high schools.
Still, in reply to the FFA Facebook post, there are over 100 comments written by American Fork parents and grand-parents who said they had benefited from the program. They credit the program for teaching more than just a way to learn about agriculture. Some, including Brady Coats, who is a current student, say the skills learned can’t be found anywhere else.
“As a student who’s in FFA, FFA changed my whole life,” Brady said. “Sports may teach us teamwork, but FFA brought me out of my shell. It’s teaching us where our food comes from, that our food comes at the price of hard work, and that we have to work for what [we] have. It teaches us the life skills we need to survive.”
“Of all the classes, clubs, or even sports I’ve partaken in, nothing has taught me more about life and myself than FFA,” Brady finally said. “This is heartbreaking to see.”