Officials in a southwest Iowa community are laying the groundwork for a “farm school.”

The Essex City Council has given initial approval to an ordinance that would let the Essex School District keep livestock on school grounds. The council will review the proposal again at its June meeting. Essex Superintendent Dr. Mike Wells says the ordinance limits the number and type of animals.

“We agreed that lambs and goats and chickens and ducks would be year one of the program,” Wells says.

They hope to start this vocational program this fall. Wells says school officials have addressed concerns about odor and cleanliness

“We would not bring animals onto the grounds until after the Labor Day celebration each year and then we would sell the animals at the sale barn by the end of April, by May 1st,” Wells says, “and then we would clean that site before baseball starts to make sure everything looks nice for baseball season.”

Wells is also superintendent of the Hamburg School District, where a similar program is already operating. Wells says city and Essex school officials will review the program yearly and decide whether it should continue. The Essex school board has hired its first-ever ag instructor to conduct the farm school courses for vocational students, who would start by constructing the buildings for the animals.

(Reporting by Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)