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Business Is Blooming at Wheeling Park High School

Photo Provided Wheeling Park High School senior Ellen Stillion nurtures the flowers in the school’s greenhouse that will be available to the public on Monday.

WHEELING — Wheeling Park High School’s student-run greenhouse will be blooming with business starting Monday when it opens its doors to the public. Meanwhile, WPHS Principal Meredith Dailer wants the Patriots’ popular feature to branch out into an even bigger project.

Dailer told board of education members this week the next step is to grow the greenhouse’s popularity into a full-scale agriculture business program at the school.

The West Virginia Department of Education has been asking WPHS to offer an agriculture program at the school for more than a decade, Dailer said. She was joined by Assistant Principal Stephanie Bugaj, who serves as coordinator of the schools career and technical programs.

Dailer said establishing agri-business as a CTE program is a good move now.

“On Monday our greenhouse will open,” she said. “Last year, we literally sold out at the greenhouse within three days. It is that popular, has that strong of a following within our community.”

The greenhouse is overseen by Don Headley, who is the school’s auto-body teacher, and will be open for public sales from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“We have an incredible investment in it (the greenhouse), and we have and incredible following,” Dailer said. “We need to make sure we are providing for the sustainability of that greenhouse.”

A hydroponics program also is “very alive and well” at WPHS, she said.

But neither the hydroponics or greenhouse education has an “embedded program around it” to help it grow and be fruitful in the future, according to Dailer.

“We believe this is a time to build that sustainability around our greenhouse and hydroponics, and also provide a legitimate curriculum around those,” she told school board members.

She is seeking to hire an additional teacher that would work alongside Headley.

Dailer said recently a family consumer sciences teacher retired at WPHS, and it would be “an easy transition” to combine that hiring with one for an agriculture business instructor.

“And the state has come to us multiple times to institute this program,” she said. “They will be able to sustain us financially during the first year of the program. That’s an important piece we don’t want to miss out on.”

Bugaj provided data showing the cost to hire an experienced agriculture teacher at $57,470 annually. There would also be an additional $20,727 needed yearly for supplies, she said. In total, the program would cost the district $78,197 annually.

The goal of the program will be agricultural literacy, and preparing students for careers in agriculture careers either through college or technical training, she explained.

Added to the school’s curriculum would be an introduction to agriculture class, an agriculture experience program and a specialization class in horticulture.

WPHS also will seek a grant to revamp the school store and offer items originating through the career and technical center. Flower arrangements and plants from the greenhouse could be offered in the store, she said.

WPHS also hopes to draw upon the experience of local entities such as Grow Ohio Valley for student learning opportunities.

Board President David Croft said the school district might need to “go shake some trees” to find extra funding for the greenhouse and agriculture program. Board member Molly Aderholt suggested the school seek to cultivate more of a relationship with Oglebay Park.

“I would love to see that relationship blossom, whether it’s through a particular class or internship,” she said.

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