Schools sheep headed to auction

Parents, kids still wonder what will happen to the agricultural club's barn
by: Hailey Hawkins The prize-winning flock of Columbia sheep that currently live at Forest Grove High School will be sold at auction later this month, but questions remain about an agricultural program at the school.

With the new school year fast approaching, Forest Grove School District officials met with students and parents Monday to discuss the future of Forest Grove High School's Future Farmer's of America program.

Budget restrictions called for the sale of the high school's flock of Columbia sheep, which racked up about $25,000 in costs each year they were boarded in the school's barn. And losing the sheep left the school's FFA chapter in jeopardy. With the retention of a metals program and one horticulture/landscaping class, FFA will be able to stick around, but changes for the program are ahead, and not all were well received at Monday's meeting.

Amidst losing access to state and national competitions, new costs to be absorbed by students and their parents and uncertainty regarding the school's standing sheep barn, the air in the room was tense.

While many mourned the loss of their animal science program, others focused on what would happen next, including the sale of the sheep, getting to know the new advisor and a breakdown of how next year's fair season would play out.

Corey Gerdes, who has two kids in FFA, said he was glad to finally have an agenda on paper after months of ambiguity regarding the future of the program. Gerdes said his kids came home thinking they'd be able to attend the Clark County Fair, but were later told they couldn't, all without having anything in writing.

Though students were not allowed to attend Clark County or the Oregon State Fair this year, according to assistant superintendent John O'Neill they will be able to next year. However, due to the loss of the flock, students will no longer be able to participate in the national convention of the Columbia Sheep Breeders Association of America.

O'Neill said students may continue to raise animals off campus, but costs such as feed and veterinary care would no longer be covered by the school and would need to be the responsibility of students and their parents.

The meeting's agenda indicated that the sheep would be sold by Aug. 22, but an attendee pointed out that the Woodburn auction, where the sheep will be sold, does not take place until Aug. 29. O'Neill confirmed that the sheep would be able to stay on site until the auction. FFA kids will be given a chance to buy sheep before they go to auction, but at the time of the meeting only one student planned to purchase animals.

With the animals gone, the sheep barn on the high school's campus will still remain. When asked whether the barn will be torn down or not, O'Neill did not give a definitive answer, but explained that it may be torn down and replaced with a new structure.

In the meantime, sheep are still in the barn and Cheryl Oviedo, a concerned parent of an FFA member, questioned whether or not the sheep were being cared for properly during their time between the end of fair and auction.

'Who's feeding the sheep?' she asked, adding that during her visits to the barns, she'd found the animals without food or water on three consecutive occasions. Oviedo said she put a call in to the high school office, informing them of the lack of care. High School Principal Karen Robinson responded that the day they received the complaint, they'd sent a school secretary out to check on the animals.

'Maybe that day,' Oviedo said, 'but what about every other day?'

O'Neill responded that they had not received any complaints since that day.

'Sheep can't exactly pick up the phone,' said attendee Nick Vandehey.

No decision was reached with regard to who would be responsible to care for the sheep. O'Neill turned to the FFA alumni in the room, which included several generations of FFA leaders, and asked for their continued support in the form of chaperones, resources and knowledge to help current FFA members during the times to come.