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Animal science program proposed

Kristen Arvin is spending her summer on a farm in Estill County, where she helps take care of 25 angus cattle and two horses.

When the 18-year-old Eastside Technical School student returns to school this fall, there will be more animals waiting — a first for the school.

Eastside, one of two technical and vocational schools in Fayette County, is expanding its agricultural program and introducing new animal-science classes this year.

“It's a really big need,” Arvin said. “We've got Keeneland and we've got all these horse places around us and we aren't being educated in any of these.”

Eventually, the technical school might offer a full-fledged animal and equine-science program on a possible new farm near the Federal Medical Center prison on Leestown Road.

“We're in the horse capital of the world, we need to be a leader in that area,” said Fayette schools Superintendent Stu Silberman.

School officials hope to move the animal-equine program to 75 acres of federal surplus lands near the prison.

The district is applying with the U.S. Department of Education for ownership of the land. It expects to hear back from the federal government in mid-August.

The city also is looking to use some of that surplus land to build a fire station.

“It's a good cooperative effort between us and the city,” Silberman said. “The city's supporting us as we're supporting them.”

Eastside Principal Joe Norman said he and Carrie Davis, an agricultural-science teacher, conducted a survey at the district's five high schools and found that a third of the students were interested in the new program.

The school is clearing out a storage shed to use as a barn and will be assembling makeshift pens to hold farm animals.

But school officials hope to give students daily contact with animals — horses, cows, lambs, goats, dogs and cats — if they get the 75 acres for the teaching farm.

The land will enable the animal-equine curriculum to “be a model program for our state,” Norman said.

The school also aims to feature classes on basic animal husbandry, including feeding, nutrition, breeding, and managing animals. There also will be classes on safety, first aid and veterinary skills.

The classes will be essential for students who want to become veterinarians or veterinary technicians, or to just learn more about animals, she said.

Veterinarians and other representatives of the agricultural community in Lexington have offered their support, and the school is looking to work directly with local farms. Farms have said they will either bring animals to the school or students can visit to work with animals.

“The earlier we could start these kids and give them insight into the Thoroughbred and horse industry, the better off they will be,” said Rocky Mason, a veterinarian with the Haggard Equine Medical Institute.

Mason said if the program expands as planned, students will have the opportunity to shadow veterinarians as they perform procedures at the hospital and at horse farms.

“We've got the facilities, we've got the farms, we've got everything to give them what they need,” he said.