Coronavirus not stoppng student passion at Butler Tech’s animal science ranch

The emotional bonds between area teens and the creatures they study and care for at Butler Tech’s Natural Science campus have been bent by the novel coronavirus pandemic but not broken.

More than 150 high school students are having to adjust to a hybrid class schedule — learning in person and remotely at home on alternate school days ― due to the pandemic.

The high school juniors and seniors study and care for horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. Seeing the animals less often has caused some changes, said Tim Spoerl, the school’s equine science instructor.

ExploreVideo & story: A lost miniature horse has become an adored member of these Butler Tech students’ lives

“It’s annoying but it’s probably not that disruptive to education,” said Spoerl as he took a recent break on the Natural Science program’s 40-acre ranch in Monroe.

But, said Spoerl, “it would be nice to have students on campus more.”

When the teens are there, the nature of their “lab work” in studying and tending to animals mostly outside, or in spacious barn-like structures, makes social distancing easier than in classesin a traditional high school setting.

The school’s equine, veterinarian and landscaping programs are maintaining their usual enrollment levels despite the COVID-19 virus, he said.

Still the coronavirus shutdown of all Ohio K-12 schools in March was a shock to the Butler Tech students, he said.

“Last spring the students had the rug pulled out from under them very quickly. The students were here on a Friday and didn’t come back on Monday. I really felt bad for the students not to be able to interact with the horses,” said Spoerl.

But like the rest of the state’s schools, the Natural Science teachers and students have adjusted, said A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Butler Tech.

“The large lab spaces (allow students) to adequately social distance, and at the Natural Science Center there is the additional advantage of being outside, in the barns and on the grounds,” said Huff.

“Overall, the hybrid (scheduling) model is working well for not only the students both in their career tech program and academics, but it still ensures that all of the animals are well taken care of and given the love and attention they deserve,” she said.

Brittany Paddack, a junior from Ross Schools, said the hybrid schedule has been a “toss up” causing some uneasiness.

“It can really (impact) what you are doing that day or what classes you have,” said Paddack.

Regardless, the hybrid schedule and coronavirus precautions of this school year haven’t lessened her passion for horses or her plans to make a career out of caring for them.

“It’s very relaxing compared to normal school,” she said.

About the Author