Students would watch lessons on how to run a farm, from crops to the business of agriculture, and then could go to a 600-acre farm near Trafalgar to get real life experience.
The Indiana Virtual Agricultural Academy, a nonprofit agency being formed, wants to offer students a general education, but also agriculture-based courses.
The goal is to get more students interested in and heading toward a career in agriculture, especially as the nation’s current farmers age, according to a presentation the organizers gave to Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school officials. The organization also wants to partner with business and farms across the to state to help connect students with jobs and internships, the presentation said.
In order to make that happen, the nonprofit organization that would run the virtual school is looking at a unique partnership with Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools.
The virtual school would become a charter school, able to accept students from across the state for its online courses, and the public school district would be its authorizing agent, which a charter school must have under state law. The charter school would be run by the nonprofit organization, the Indiana Virtual Agricultural Academy, which would be governed by a five-person board, with members appointed by the nonprofit, the school district and the farm they work with.
Indian Creek school officials have started the application process with the state, which will take several months, and many details still need to be determined, Superintendent Timothy Edsell said.
Through the partnership, the school district could offer additional educational opportunities to its students, Edsell said.
But one concern is how new and unique the idea is, and making sure it works, because the concept has not been tried before in Indiana, he said.
“We want there to be success and how that looks is going to take time to organize and work through,” Edsell said.
More of the details of the partnership will be worked out in the coming months, Edsell said.
Under state law, charter schools have to have an authorizing agent, which can be a local government, such as a school district, a college or a mayor. That group helps oversee the charter school, including student performance and finances, reports information to the state and can decide that a charter school should be shut down.
Indian Creek is interested in the partnership for the additional opportunities and curriculum it can offer students and how its own mission and values align with those of the charter school, Edsell said.
The academy also is working with a large farm that is only 6 miles away from Indian Creek schools, which would be a resource for local students, Edsell said.
The farm has 200 acres of forest land, 163 acres of crops and 120 acres of pasture, according to the presentation the school gave Indian Creek. The group also plans to construct classroom multi-purpose space to host programs on campus, and is planning future expansions, including lab space, vocational training and video, audio and IT space.
Indian Creek students would also have access to the farm campus and could be involved in a year-round project-based education, the presentation said.