Brawley Union High School Ag Center closer to reality

Stephen Elmore, FFA Advisor, discusses possible locations of new school Ag barn with the board
Stephen Elmore, FFA Advisor, discusses possible locations of new school Ag barn with the board

BRAWLEY – The BUHSD board listened as Principal Simon Canales presented a plan to incorporate the agricultural department’s new barn desires with the high school’s need to retain expansion room on the same plot of ground north of the campus.

Michelle Taylor, Brawley FFA advisor and agricultural teacher, approached the school board several months ago about moving the animal pens off of Highway 78 several miles east of town to a safer, closer location to the school.

The ag department already has their greenhouse on a lot with several permanent and non-permanent modules and an improvised gravel parking lot directly north of the campus.

Taylor proposed, after canvasing and receiving the approval of the teachers and nearby residents, to build a barn and a practice arena in the makeshift parking space of the same lot.

However, an old warehouse had been moved from that same area to another district property and around $180,000 had been spent upgrading the northern, front section of the lot for future school expansion.

Randy Smith, ROP teacher and facilities manager, said that the front part of the property had sewer, water, electrical, and data conduits in place, enough to provide for seven modular classrooms. This area of possible expansion is important to the state showing that the Brawley High School District board has plans on how to expand until a second high school is built.

If the area is turned into barns and an arena, the money spent for future expansion and the space would be for naught.

Canales said two other options involved converting the student parking south of campus into  classrooms after installing all needed utilities and data conduit, or try to buy an adjacent property and add needed infrastucture.

However, the plan Canales presented to the board resolved all those issues. He suggested moving the three non-permanent modules that sit on the back half of the lot back on the main campus, letting them replace “outdated, very old, poorly lit, poor quality, energy pig classroom modules.” 

The three remaining modules could become ag classrooms. This would free up more space than Taylor even requested, creating space for a barn, an arena, and a livestock walking course around the greenhouse.

The area would be the Brawley Union High School Agricultural Center.

Canales said, “It keeps only ag students who are aware of sanitary agricultural rules back in the greenhouse and barn areas, precluding the chance of accidental cross contamination occurring by having the rest of the student body traipsing back and forth to their classes on that lot. The Ag department would be self-contained.”

The $35,000 needed to move the modules would be the most feasible course economically.

Steven Elmore, FFA Advisor and representing Taylor in her absence, said he was happy with their plan. The Ag Center would be closer to campus, safer for the students, have the facilities they needed. The school could keep their expansion area available with no extra costs.

The only draw back, is by using the front of the lot, there would be less expense to the students without the $35,000 module moving fee.

Ralph Fernandez, board member, said that since the agenda item was only a discussion item, staff and the FFA Advisory Board should finalize definite plans using the back portion of the lot, figure out expenses, and the board could vote when the project was re-presented.

There was talk by the board using part of the general fund to help finance the move. Before, the cost promised to be borne by the FFA students.

Rusty Garcia, board member, said, “We need to make sure we don’t burden the FFA students with undue financial costs. Every additional cost we impose is a burden to them.”