Saturday, March 28 was going to be a day of educating young students how to operate machinery safely. Instead, students may have to wait until next year to get the education they need. The Pratt County Extension Office typically offers a Tractor Safety class each year for Pratt County and surrounding counties, but COVID-19 caused a major change in plans this year.
The class was for students 14, 15, and a few 16-year-olds old enough to work on a farm, but not old enough to operate a tractor without certification. About 30-50 students typically take the day-long class each year, but area extension offices will not be offering the class this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Those students who absolutely need certification for a summer job with someone other than their parents may be able to find online or take-home options from their local county extension offices.
If youth ages 14 and 15 will be operating machinery for their parents, they are not required by law to have certification, but many parents still have their kids take the class to educate them so they can safely operate tractors.
For those who absolutely need certification for this summer, several area extension offices are offering a take-home course that includes a workbook and written test, and they would have to complete a driving test with an instructor within 90 days of the written test.
Extension agents and Research and Extension employees have considered other online options, but none of the online programs would give the students the education they would need.
"We don’t see the options we have as being comparable," said Pratt County Extension Agent Vicki Simonsen. "There’s a lot of instruction they’re going to miss. We’d rather have them take it next year when they can get the full experience."
Typically, the tractor safety class given at Pratt Community College is a full day for the students. From 7:30 a.m. until around 3 p.m. students work on classwork and have a written test at the end of the classwork. After that, they drive and operate a tractor and are given a pass/fail based on their written test results and hands-on test. The 2020 opportunity was canceled this year because of coronavirus restrictions and concern.
Parents or students who would like more information about the take-home class may call the Pratt County Extension Office at (620) 672-6121.