Manchester Valley High School administrators are planning to have students enrolled in agricultural science classes take the courses at neighboring North Carroll High next year, but has no plans to discontinue the school's Future Farmers of America chapter.

Dr. Kenneth Fischer, principal at Manchester Valley, said he's expecting a reduction in staff for the next school year because enrollment at the school has declined and overall budget allocations are expected to follow. Because of the potential for a staff reduction and fewer student requests for agricultural science courses as compared to other classes, Fischer said administrators are planning to have those courses offered at North Carroll in Hampstead instead.

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Steven Johnson, Carroll County Public Schools assistant superintendent of instruction, said the changes have to do with the number of students signed up for particular classes. Johnson said school administrators examine course selection requests and begin adjusting staffing so that as many students as possible have access to the classes they have selected. It's a process that takes place every year.

"Instead of eliminating programs, we often provide students with the opportunity to enroll in the class at another school," Johnson said.

The students are shuttled between schools to take their classes, he said.

Fischer said Manchester Valley is fortunate to have a shuttle bus with North Carroll High School that provides the option of sharing courses so that many students can still have access to the classes they have selected.

This year, more than 40 students from each school have been able to take classes that would have otherwise been unavailable without the shuttle arrangements, he said.

Manchester Valley's school enrollment projection has declined and changes in enrollment can decrease the overall budget allocation, Fischer said.

"Nothing is definitive until the budget is finalized by the Board of Education in May. We are proceeding like any other year, to build a schedule that matches the requests of our students," Fischer said in a letter sent to parents Monday. "Due to the lower student requests for these courses compared to others and the potential for staffing reduction, we are proceeding as if our agricultural science classes will be hosted by North Carroll High School."

Manchester Valley this year offered three agricultural science courses which serve a total of 52 students, Fischer said.

"Forty students are signed up for next year," Fischer said. "There is room at North Carroll, and students will be able to take ag classes there."

Fischer also acknowledged students are concerned about the status of Manchester Valley's FFA chapter.

"We have no plans to discontinue this organization and recognize its value to our school community," he said.

Fischer said the administration values the integral connection of agricultural science courses to the students' interests and to their community's heritage.

"It may be inconvenient to go to another school, but it's the best solution I can come up with," he said. "I hope it's a temporary solution."

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

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