Katy ISD broke ground on a new $34 million Agricultural Sciences Center April 27 at a property that also contains the KISD Future Farmers of America barns. The new center will grow the district’s agricultural programs, which include a partnership with FFA and the KISD Livestock Show & Rodeo, said Sarah Martin, director of career technology education for KISD.
Martin said the administration is excited about the opportunities the facility will provide to all of the district’s students. The facility is expected to take on some of the events held at the district’s L.D. Robinson Pavilion near the Merrell Center, Martin said, including the KISD Rodeo and various livestock shows and competitions.
The agriculture center will include a multipurpose show arena, a project center building, an ecopond and a multipurpose covered outdoor arena with stadium seating.
The Robinson facility was built in 2004 when KISD only had about 40,000 students, KISD Superintendent Lance Hindt said. Since that time, the district has grown to nearly 78,000 students across all of its campuses. Hindt said the administration expects to meet or exceed 78,000 students by the end of the 2017-18 school year. KISD currently has about 3,300 FFA students, according to district representatives.
Hindt said the facility will be complete by February 2019, in time for the 76th KISD Rodeo and Livestock Show.
The complex, which is the last project to use the district’s 2014 bond funds, will add to the district’s agricultural education curriculum that began over a century ago, KISD board President Ashley Vann said. The facility will support a student body that is increasingly showing an interest in fields such as agricultural mechanics, metal technologies, horticulture and animal husbandry, she said.
The facility will focus on Texas agriculture, Martin said. Plants native to Texas will be housed at the facility to encourage native birds and other small animals pushed out by nearby development to return to the area. The facility will also include classroom extensions for life sciences courses. Students studying a variety of agricultural disciplines will be able to conduct experiments at the facility, Martin said.
Agricultural instruction specialist Guy James said the facility will also help KISD students compete in statewide agricultural competitions. James said the only agriculture competition in the state larger than the one held by the district is in Fort Worth at Tarleton State University. KISD’s current event is held at the Robinson facility and sees about 3,000 competitors in livestock shows annually, while the Tarleton competition sees about 10,000 competitors.
“But this is going to be a much larger facility, so we’ll be able to hold all the different classes and different contests at this facility…plus adding the wildlife and hopefully we’ll be adding other contests,” James said.
Martin said the district will look at how the facility can give students practical and hands-on experiences in agriculture. The facility will allow students the opportunities to raise animals and plant vegetables that can be sold at a possible farmers market at the facility.
KISD currently offers a business agricultural marketing and management course, Martin said. She said a farmers market would provide students with the opportunity to put their classroom learning into practice.
“There’s not a farmers market in that area of our town and our goal is for students to have their own businesses,” Martin said.
The center will also allow students to touch on the history of Katy that has been lost as development continues in the area, Martin said. Many students today have never seen what the city was like when it was surrounded by rice fields and other country living, she said. She expects the new center to help KISD students connect to their community’s past.
“This complex also symbolizes our promise of a continuing legacy that provides unparalleled learning experiences designed to prepare and inspire,” Vann said.