New facility proposed for old horticulture site

A new facility with a combined focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, as well as Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, has been proposed for the North Kitsap School District.

The facility would be built on the district’s horticulture site, which is just off the Poulsbo Middle School parking lot. Two dilapidated portable classrooms that are no longer in use would have to be removed.

John Waller, head of the districts Career and Technical Education programs, made the proposal. Ironically, when Waller first became a teacher, one of the portables was his first classroom.

“It had been there prior to me coming in,” Waller said.

The horticulture program started in the 1970s and the site was used for nursery production for a Future Farmers of America landscaping competition. Along the way the program incorporated more agriculture and natural resources studies.

“For about eight years, while I was the assistant principal at North Kitsap High School, we struggled to find individuals who were interested in doing the work it actually takes to run a program like that, and so the site started falling apart and going to waste,” Waller said.

The site was open for community use, and many people used it to grow produce for local farmers markets, but ultimately interest died out. Waller hopes that the revitalization will offer more opportunity, not just for high school students but for middle and elementary students down the road.

The site is still used by FFA and other agricultural and environmental programs.

“What I proposed to the board was to have the two portables removed and in their place have a shop/barn style building that will allow us to have a lab site as well as space for the horticulture and agriculture programs,” Waller said.

Waller hopes to have the new facility completed by Aug. 31 that would cost over $340,000. Most of the funding would come from grants and enhanced funding provided to CTE programs. The AFNR program would remain, but STEM education also would have a home there.

“We are working on bringing in ‘Project Lead the Way’, an environmental science program … at Poulsbo Middle School to use as a feeder and introduction course to get those kids interested in the high school AFNR program,” Waller said. “We will be working with the elementary schools and the Northwest STEM Consortium, lots of curriculum that elementary teachers can be using that would allow them to use the new facility and incorporate engagement with the older kids as well to build those connections.”

CTE programs receive enhanced funding based on the ability of the programs to meet industry standards so that when students graduate they have the basic knowledge and skill sets to enter into the trades, participate in apprenticeships or go to college.

“We are preparing them to go in any of these directions and be successful,” Waller said.

One of the benefits of getting the project going now is there are no kids on the Poulsbo middle or high school campuses, which would make the building process go a lot smoother. NKSD hopes bring its secondary school students back to in- person learning before the end of the school year.

“We want the kids back, don’t get me wrong, and we would make it work even if they were here. But it offers us a time to look at it and say OK we can get in there and get things done, and we don’t have to do a lot of shuffling,” Waller said.