Newtown High School expects to add a greenhouse management course to its offerings next year after receiving permission from the Board of Education during a meeting at the Tuesday.
The course, which would be taught by George Bachman, the high school's greenhouse manager and biology teacher, won't require additional staffing and would offer students credits that could be used at Naugatuck Valley Community College, which might be transferrable to the University of Connecticut, officials said.
But most of all, the course would provide the student enough training to apply for an assistant greenhouse manager's job upon high school graduation in a billion-dollar industry looking for those such skills, Bachman said.
"There is a definite need for students who are ready to step into these positions with minimal amout of training," he said. "It's an unfulfilled niche."
The idea for the new course, which could be offered as early as next year but likely not available every semester, came to Bachman, he said, following the completion of the new greenhouse, which drew much interest in the last year due to the costs associated with building it.
"We are looking forward to getting up and running again and turning it into a community jewel that it has been in the past," Bachman said of the greenhouse. "I would really like to maximize its use."
The high school already offers two greenery courses, which teaches students plant science as well as how to market and sell what they grow. The greenhouse management course would be independent of those courses, although education board member Cody McCubbin said teachers should probably recommend students learn about greenery beforehand.
The greenhouse management course would teach students about the equipment, selecting the right crops and cultures and formulating and implementing a business plan, officials said. The costs associated with the program would include those needed to purchase textbooks and growing supplies, though some of the expenses may be defrayed from plant sales, officials said.
Bachman said that as a former horticulture adjunct at Naugatuck Valley Community College and after talking to people in the industry, he believes some students might be able to go from high school graduation directly into a job with the skills taught in the class, or others might qualify for a job as a manager with an additional three to four years of work experience.
"Definitely an assistant greenhouse manager right from high school," Bachman said.
Education board members Laura Roche and Bill Hart questioned how the course would impact other classes at the high school. Bachman also teaches biology at the school.
"I was just going to assume that I would take on that program and adjust my schedule accordingly," he said. "I think there is flexibility in my schedule."
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Gejda said the addition would not mean Bachman's biology class would be bumped, but likely that one of the existing greenery courses might not be offered one semester in favor of the greenhouse management one.
Gejda said officials were looking for the board's approval on the concept now so the district could proceed to develop the course curriculum and have it ready to be included in a Program of Study that comes out in March for students. The scheduling of the class would be done as part of the overall course scheduling done by school administrators, Gejda said.
The class would be one of the few vocational ones at the school and would allow students to accrue credits that potentially might be accepted at some colleges. Newtown offers courses that may allow students to accrue at least 12 college credits even as they graduate high school, officials said.