In addition to discussing the district’s new agricultural education program, the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees and HPS Superintendent Craig Mueller discussed the logistics of adding baseball to the district’s roster of athletic programs and their concerns about implementation for the coming year at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon .
The possibility of implementing a baseball program was raised at the last regular board meeting two weeks ago, and Mueller raised a number of concerns about implementing a baseball program, particularly for the next year, including a layoff at the American Legion’s local baseball program. as well as the logistical set-up of the program in the last weeks of the school year for the coming fall semester.
While some board members complained about not discussing the matter earlier in the year, which was also criticized by some attendees at the meeting, the prevailing attitude seemed to be that they should study the implications of adding a baseball program, but not rush it in time for the coming school year.
That stance was shared by both Mueller and board members at Tuesday’s meeting.
Mueller reiterated some of the concerns he raised at the last meeting, as well as some new ones.
He said trying to put a program in place in the final weeks of this school year will be difficult considering they have to set schedules, find ways to pay for it, assess the impact on other sports and arrange transportation.
Transportation is a particularly serious issue, he said, because the district is already struggling to provide transportation for the teams it already has and he doesn’t want to make the problem worse.
“I don’t think we want to be there at the moment,” he said.
Mueller said he’s not opposed to talking about a baseball program, but there’s work to be done if they’re going to do it responsibly.
He said if the board wanted to proceed with reviewing the program, it would eventually receive a formal request from the district’s activities director, including an economic impact study, as well as details of how it would be paid for and what facilities the district would need to have agreements with conclude.
He also discussed a recent poll of students regarding their interest in adding baseball as a sport, but said he felt there was still a lot of discussion to be had about the possibility.
Of the 116 responses from eighth through eleventh graders, 51.7 percent said they would be interested in playing if Havre High School had a baseball team, and of those, 23.3 percent currently played on another local baseball team .
Trustee Tim Scheele said he recently spoke with American Legion Baseball Coach Patch Wirtzberger about the possibility of adding baseball, and like Mueller, said he wasn’t opposed to the idea but said the school would have to do a lot to make it happen it and was worried that they might move too fast.
“He was relieved to see that we… didn’t want to rush anything,” Scheele said.
Trustee Brittanee’ Loch agreed.
“We all want to provide opportunities for students, but I would hate to rush it,” Loch said.
Chief Executive Smeby also reiterated his concerns about the cost of a potential program, saying they should find out what the cost per student would be and make an informed decision.
When asked how long it would take to gather all the information needed to make an informed decision about the 2023-24 school year program, Mueller said it would be ready by February next year, March at the latest.
At the meeting, the board also discussed class descriptions for courses in the district’s new agricultural education program.
Mueller said he and HPS Assistant Superintendent Brad Moore are very excited about this program, which will be the first full farming program the school has ever had.
The initial range of courses in the program would include Introduction to Agriculture, Plant Science, Animal Science, Farm Management and Farm Economics.
Mueller said the district has hired a new teacher for these classes and they will be able to provide more comprehensive course descriptions, but those presented should give the board an idea of what will be available.
He’s hoping the course descriptions will be approved to allow students to enroll in the final weeks of this year, but there will almost certainly be students enrolling in the first week of the fall semester as well.
Moore said students in the program have opportunities to work with the Northern Agricultural Research Center, particularly those in the Animal Science Course, and he has already met with the center’s staff.
When asked why the district has never had an agriculture program in the past, he said that’s a good question considering they’re surrounded by great programs run by much smaller schools like Big Sandy and Chinook and even Turner on and off.
He said that across the country, agricultural education is increasing in school districts and universities are producing more and more agricultural graduates.
The board voted unanimously to accept the submitted course descriptions.
They also voted to accept the staffing positions, which include hiring Cheryl Russell as director of special services, which Mueller is pleased about.