By Diana Matthews
The Columbus County Board of Education heard a presentation Monday evening from West Columbus High School principal Jeffrey Greene and agriculture teacher Fredrick McPherson about building a livestock shelter on campus. The 24 by 36 foot building would stand in an area behind the school’s existing greenhouses.
Observation of enrollment trends showed that “Agricultural production classes are down here and statewide,” said McPherson. “Students are getting away from agricultural production and into animal science or horticulture.”
The students would not become responsible for caring for a large herd of animals, McPherson said. “There will be no more than two cows or hogs at a time,” he said. “They’ll be just a teaching tool. We don’t want to be smelling them over at the ballfield.”
Greene’s written proposal stated that, “The money to build this structure is available through a grant that was awarded to Mr. McPherson.” Board members received a layout drawing showing accommodations for cows, goats, pigs and chickens as well as a feed storage room. Removable panels between some of the spaces would allow animals to be housed in larger or smaller groups.
The storeroom and a central aisle will have concrete floors while the stalls will have dirt and straw, which the students will maintain. McPherson assured the board that safety would be his first priority, and an “environmentally pleasing” setup would rank high as well.
“The animals will be sold at the end of each school year unless they are some kind that would be hard to replace,” he said. “We’ll get more animals the next year. The cows will probably actually come from my home. We’ll keep it on a small scale.”
If educational trends lead WCHS to give up the animal science program after a few years, said Greene and McPherson, “the building can be used as storage.”
Board members asked questions about building plans and liability in case of runaway animals. Satisfied with the answers, they voted unanimously to approve the project.
Greene said that members of the church youth organization Mission Serve, which aided in Fair Bluff flood recovery projects last summer, plans to send a large number of workers this summer to help with repairs again. “They’ve offered to carry out a project at WCHS” in return for their housing, he said, “and we may get them to help build this shed.”