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High school to get greenhouse complex
3 Greenhouse pic
Agricultural education teacher Eric Hickox surveys the limited space available for growing and planting in the existing greenhouse at Dawson County High School. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Funding for long-sought new greenhouse complex at Dawson County High School has been approved.

The board of education voted during its Feb. 10 regular meeting to allot more than $246,000 to build new greenhouses and adjacent storage space.

"One thing that we pride ourselves in here in Dawson County is having tremendous facilities," said Dawson County Superintendent Keith Porter. "When you look at our facilities, the one part that appeared to be aging more than any other was our greenhouse structure and the auxiliary buildings that went with it. It had just reached the point of diminishing returns."

Agricultural education teacher Eric Hickox said the project is something his department has been trying to secure for some time.

"Reggie Stowers [Hickox's predecessor] had been trying for several years," he said. "When I came in, I decided to make the pitch and it worked out."

The plans call for four buildings: two 72-foot-by-30-foot polycarbonate-sided greenhouses; a 30-foot-by-24-foot metal-sided head house; and a 20-foot-by-60-foot shade house.

"For the plants that we grow, there really isn't enough space, even in our larger greenhouse," Hickox said. "We decided to go with two medium-style greenhouses instead. It gives us a lot more space and it allows us to use two different environmental settings to grow plants in."

One of the new buildings is the head house, which is used for storage and transplanting.

"This gives us a spot to lock up everything and keeps it out of the public eye," Hickox said. "The new facilities will also have a concrete floor, which allows us to cut down on disease and pests. You can lose an entire crop to that.

"If we have two different greenhouses, it also lets us set up quarantine."

Finally, the school is also getting a specialized building in the shade house.

"One thing that we are adding is a shade house," Hickox said. "It allows plants to adjust to the climate, instead of going straight from the greenhouse to a yard."

According to Hickox, building two smaller greenhouses will also save costs in the long run.

"It will help cut down on energy costs," he said. "In the winter, we don't grow as many plants, so instead of trying to heat one large greenhouse, we can move the plants to one medium-sized house and just heat that."

Hickox said that the facility will take about three months to complete, including demolition and rebuilding.

"We plan on starting around mid-April or the beginning of May," he said. "It should be completed by the middle of August. By next school year, we'll be fully operational and ready to go."