PRAGUE, Okla. (KFOR) – Eighty acres of gifted land is now at the center of a town-splitting conflict. The land is used by students raising farm animals as part of the final will and testament of an immigrant from the now-dissolved Czechoslovakia. Nearly 40-years after his death, the school district wants to put it up for sale.
“We can take this man’s gift and turn it into something better for way more students,” said John Smith, a Prague agricultural parent.
“People have deep roots here and I just feel like this is a part of it,” said Prague alum Trisha Powell.
Prague parents and alums are split on the school farm’s future. The 80-acres was given to the district 36 years ago by Czech immigrant John Minsik. In his will, he stated the land was to be used to raise livestock, shoot clays or anything else involving agricultural education.
While the school may consider keeping ten or so acres for skeet shooting, parents like Justin Terrell are fighting to see all of the land stay.
“In the will it states he wanted the land left to the kids of Prague schools, for leasing purposes, agriculture, keep animals out and so forth,” said Terrell. “And his wishes are not being met.”
Others, like Smith, told KFOR enough time has passed since Minsik’s death for the school board to legally sell.
“They’ve fulfilled their end of 21 years of the way the law reads,” said Smith. “And the school’s still wanting to honor that family’s gift.”
Smith also told KFOR he doesn’t think the current facility on Minsik’s land is big enough to serve everyone.
“It’s really a pig barn. There’s not really a facility for goats and cattle,” he said.
“There’s 80 acres,” said Terrell. “You can have cattle, sheep, hogs, etc. There’s plenty, plenty of room.”
The land’s location is another hot topic among the split. That’s because the farm is five minutes outside of town.
“It’s out there where a lot of kids can’t use it,” said Smith. “Students that live in town and their parents don’t have a way to get them out there before school to take care of their animals, and don’t have a way to get them out there after school.”
“I lived in town, so had I not had the ability to keep my show animals out here, I wouldn’t have had the ability to show, and that was a really important part of my high school career,” said Powell. “Growing up in this area, that’s what you do. You show animals.”
However, Smith said the district has already purchased 17 acres behind the middle school. The alleged plan is to use money from the sale to build a bigger facility.
“These kids can walk out there after class or before school and take care of their animals,” said Smith. “It’s still going to be the Minsik family’s gift to the school. The whole facility, we were wanting to name after them.”
“There are supposed to be no [show/livestock] animals in town,” said Terrell.
Terrell told News 4 that parents like him are not against progress. They just want concrete plans in writing and for the Czech immigrant’s legacy to be honored.
“Show us what you’re going to do with the money,” Terrell said. “If they can show us that selling the farm is the best thing to do in writing, then we are all for it.”
“I’ve talked to numerous people in the community that are four, five or six generations, and they are reluctant to leave anything to the school due to the way this has been handled,” said Terrell.
Meanwhile, Powell just wants other high schoolers to have the same experience as she did.
“I feel like a really big opportunity is going to be taken away if something is not put in writing that they’re going to build a building dedicated to housing show animals for students who don’t have the ability to keep them at their home,” said Powell.
The Prague School Board of Education is set to finalize plans during an evening meeting on Monday, December 13.