After much debate, Galt High School District's board decided on Thursday night to offer agriculture and pre-engineering programs at both Liberty Ranch and Galt high schools in a 4-1 vote.
The board's plan would allow the additions of the two programs as long as the district did not have to dip into the general fund or commit to any long-term borrowing.
Trustee Sue Roberts voted against the item.
The district had originally proposed that it would offer specialized programs at each of its two high schools when it applied for a state grant for career and technical education in June of last year.
By that scenario, students would be able to choose which high school they wanted to attend based on their interest in a particular program.
In its application for the grant, the district said it would place the agriculture and health programs at its new Liberty Ranch High School and put its pre-engineering and auto diesel programs at Galt High School.
When the district's grant application was approved in October, though, its staff realized that the district did not have enough money to match the money it was going to receive from the state, a requirement to receive the grant.
"The 1D grant that we proposed was too expensive and we cannot afford it," said Tom Gemma, the district's superintendent.
The board gathered at a special meeting in November of last year to discuss options. It was then that both the agriculture and pre-engineering advisory committees requested to have their programs at both campuses.
Though Gemma said offering both the programs at each of the two high schools was plausible, he advised the board to stick to the original plan for several reasons.
The following is a list of programs will be offered at the two high schools:
Galt High School
• Auto diesel
Liberty Ranch High School
- News-Sentinel staff.
Gemma said he was unsure that the state would even allow the district to change the plan it presented on its application.
Also, afraid that state budget cutbacks would force district to tighten its belt even further, Gemma warned that adding even more expenses to its plate could put the district in a precarious financial situation.
Offering the agriculture and the pre-engineering program at both high schools would cost the district approximately $500,000, according to district estimates.
A few community members agreed with Gemma.
Parent Connie Goethel said that she didn't want the district to go further into debt.
"I don't see melting (the agriculture and pre-engineering programs) down into two if we can have them top notch at one," Goethel said.
However, several other community members argued that by only offering the programs at one high school, the district was forcing students to make choices in the eighth-grade that would impact their career paths.
"Magnet schools don't offer choices; they offer tough choices," said Jim Aschwanden, former Galt High agriculture teacher and executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers' Association.
Galt High agriculture teachers said that students were attracted to the program by seeing it on campus.
Mandy Garner, an agriculture teacher, said in a recent poll students described the program as "a home away from home" and "a niche that we can belong to."
"You want to kill a program, stick it in a cubbyhole and don't let anybody see it," Aschwanden said.
Hugh Mooney, a former agriculture teacher, said offering agriculture and pre-engineering courses at only one school discourages students who have to travel farther to get to the school where their program of choice is offered. Not every student can afford that increased transportation cost, he said.
"Magnet schools don't work, period," Mooney said.
While, ultimately, most of the board members sided with Mooney, not everybody shared the same sentiment.
Roberts said that the board had not discussed what job opportunities are available to students once they graduate and how that impacts the education that the district offers.
Roberts also disagreed with spending more money in the face of proposed budget cuts.
Galt resident Kathleen Amos also disagreed with the board's direction, saying that by offering the agriculture program at each site, the board was spending too much money on too few students.
"They have a single agenda to forward the ag program," Amos said.