Monday, Feb. 4 got off to an exciting start for the Oakdale Joint Unified School District as Congressman Josh Harder made a visit to the Oakdale School Farm. The freshman Congressman made the farm an early afternoon stop as he toured areas of the Central Valley.
As luck might have it a detailed report of the district project was given later that night during the OJUSD monthly board meeting.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Pupil Services and Facilities Larry Mendonca presented the board with a slide show presentation outlining the completion of projects at the farm.
“I’m very excited about updating the board on where we are with the school farm,” Mendonca stated.
“It’s no secret that we’ve had a vision that’s really come to fruition,” he continued. “It’s come to development. We’re continuing that. I want to briefly update the board on where we’re at in that process. It’s probably been one of the biggest and most exciting things I’ve been a part of in my educational career is seeing the development of our school farm.”
The excitement and passion Mendonca has for the project quickly became apparent as he took the board through the slide show tour, starting with the completed pavilion. The assistant superintendent shared that completion of the space has increased student participation in the county fair significantly, as well as served as space for a number of other events and projects including dinner events.
In its third year, the school farm almond orchard continues to develop and should leaf a small crop this year, Mendonca said, indicating that fourth year is a real production year in the almond industry.
The Pig Barn is perhaps the most significant piece of the Phase II construction at the farm. Work began on the project shortly after the holiday season and has proceeded on a rapid pace.
“Hogs do better in regards to management on a cleaner surface,” Mendonca told the board, noting one of the many significant differences between the pig space and the pavilion, as a concrete slab was poured for the floor.
A portion of the side walls are poured concrete as well. Mendonca added cinder block was initially planned for the space, however the concrete priced out comparable.
“It gives it a much better reveal on the outside, as well as on the inside it’s much cleaner,” he said.
“Once we get the weather out of the way, we anticipate this thing getting buttoned up within the next week or two, weather permitting,” he said of the Pig Barn.
As completion wraps on the Pig Barn, ground breaking and pole setting will begin on a Pole Barn structure. The facility will be used for cattle, sheep and goat stock whose needs are not as specific as that of the hogs.
Mendonca indicated once a certain point of the Pole Barn construction is complete, district maintenance employees will take over the process.
“We’ve got some great maintenance guys that have construction experience,” Mendonca said. “I can’t tell you what an advantage it is to have a force that not only can oversee our structures, but our contractors, as well as our inspector. When we can use our own force for a structure like this our cost savings is tremendous.”
An irrigation system, in addition to a well will be another project at the farm, thanks to the support of a $200,000 grant by Oakdale Irrigation District. Trees, row crops and individual projects will also have a home for ag students to learn the grower side of the ag business.
“Your project doesn’t have to be an animal project,” Mendonca said of the opportunity the farm will offer the district student body. “At the school we’re going to have ornamental horticulture, floriculture projects, but out here if you want to raise some plant produce you can do that out here.”
Mendonca gave special recognition to Director of Maintenance and Operation Dan Casey, as well as Todd Daley and Asa Merry for their continued expertise with the project.
“It would be an injustice if I didn’t mention those guys,” he said. “From the day we broke ground those individuals have really allowed us to design and make sure what we put in place was done well.”
Oakdale Teacher Association Vice President Karen Miller addressed the board at the start of the meeting offering a campus and personnel update. Miller also shared accolades for the district nurses with the board.
“We want to meet all of our students’ academics, social, emotional and behavioral aspects of their life and also their health,” Miller said. “They are a huge part of our individual education plans for students and they help us to do a summary of their health. They contact the parents. They talk about healthy eating, activities and they do vision and hearing even beyond what we normally do for screening.”
Miller informed the board the nursing team recently secured 20 certificates through the district vision providers for free exams for students in need, as well as frames. An opportunity which they’re already seeing put to use and proving effective for students in need of glasses.
The monthly meeting began promptly at 6:30 p.m. Magnolia Elementary students: Briana Ordonez, Jaxson Reyes, Rosalie Gonzalez and Emalyn Fisher led the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the meeting.
The next meeting will be hosted on Monday, March 11 at the OJUSD Tech Center. Public Meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.