Parents and students are concerned that the lack of enrollment in agricultural science classes at Manchester Valley High School will lead to the extinction of the school's Future Farmers of America chapter.

"I was told in order for the Manchester Valley FFA chapter to continue the agricultural classes, they would have to be offered at Manchester Valley with an adviser from the school," said Kenneth Nusbaum, a parent of a Manchester Valley High School student.

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Manchester Valley High School principal Ken Fischer said he has been working with everyone who has contacted him about the ag program to find a solution.

"I had a great meeting with the school's ag teacher and ag supervisor," Fischer said. "We're working on a plan and looking into new ideas. Even if we lose staff, we might be able to still have the classes here."

A few Manchester Valley High School FFA members attended the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday to air their concerns.

"Shouldn't we be taking a step to ensure ag's future?" said Elsa Lunceford, a Manchester Valley FFA member. "It is vital that we have an active program at every school."

Even if the students do not have classes at the school, Fischer said he spoke with the national FFA chapter who responded in an email that a chartered FFA chapter can operate for up to three years after it is discontinued as long as it is approved by the school administrator and state FFA adviser.

Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said there have not yet been any decisions about the program.

"We are always concerned when good school systems reduce or eliminate their Ag programs due to budget cuts and/or lower student enrollment," wrote George Mayo, executive director of the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, Inc., in an email.

Mayo said Manchester Valley students have been shuttled to North Carroll for several years already for some of their ag educational classes. He said he was confident that North Carroll's award-winning master teacher, Aaron Geiman, will ensure any students he receives will be given the best instruction possible.

"We know there are many students at Manchester Valley who are passionate about retaining the ag programs," Mayo wrote. "We also know that there are many supporters within and outside of the community who will work to retain ag ed programs for the students at Manchester Valley, even if that means the instruction takes place at a satellite school."

Ultimately, it is up to the students and parents to determine which course offerings are filled when the students make course selections.

"A major component is recruitment for the ag classes and FFA," Fischer said. "We're working with the middle school and alumni to make sure students know the wonderful programs available."

If parents or students have additional concerns about course selection, please contact Fischer at 410-386-1673.

Reach staff writer Michel Elben at 410-857-7873 or michel.elben@carrollcountytimes.com.

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