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Students rally to save school programs

OAKLAND -- Students were fighting to save the agriculture and art programs at their school.
OAKLAND -- Students rallied around their teachers. They were fighting to save the agriculture program at their school.

Concerned community members packed the school's library last week. Many of them came back Monday night for a special session.

Agriculture teacher Jeff Coon says the school board was looking at making him a part-time employee. Then he would only spend half the day at Oakland. He wouldn't get to teach any classes to junior high students. But his students and the community came together to help him keep his full-time position.

The Oakland School Board wasn't planning to make any final decisions Monday night. They were just going to look at options for next year.

"We discussed there might be some possible reductions," said superintendent Lance Landeck.

Those reductions included the agriculture program; one which hits close to home for many families.

"My dad is a farmer," said junior Alex Hudson. "His dad was a farmer and on my mom's side of the family, they're all farmers, so we grew up riding a tractor."

Students like Hudson say if agriculture classes were only offered in the morning, they'd be tough to fit into an already-packed schedule. So they told board members they were willing to fight for their future.

"After high school, I'm planning to go into an agriculture-related career so I need all the ag classes I can get," said Hudson.

Even graduating students, like Tyler Dennis, say they wanted to make sure the program stays as it is. That includes opportunities for junior high students as well as those in high school.

"It's something that's needed especially in a community like this," said Dennis. "We're a farming community. Agriculture is a huge thing in this community. Without ag in our school, why would people want to go to school here?"

Parents like Pam Hudson say they appreciate the life lessons students learn in ag classes and FFA, like pitching in with a local PB&J drive just because they wanted to help.

"It's not just pigs and cows and corn and beans," said Pam Hudson. "It's life in a rural community."

So after a closed session, community members were excited to hear the news from the board. There will be no new cuts to the agriculture program for next year.

"We always want to provide what's best for the students, try to provide opportunities for our students so that's what we consider first and foremost," said Landeck.

The president of the Oakland Education Association says they appreciate the support from the community through all of this. Students say they're just happy to see things will stay they way they are.

Another program that could have been cut down in Oakland was art. If she would have been reduced to part time, teacher Jill Sweeney would only get to teach three art classes a day and one driver's education class. Junior high students wouldn't get to take her classes at all. After Monday's school board decision, her job is also safe for the upcoming year.
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