Evart board approves plans for therapy dog ​​team

EVART — With many school districts recognizing the benefits of therapy dogs in schools, Evart Public Schools is moving forward with plans to bring a furry employee to their district.

At its last board meeting on August 8, the school board heard a presentation from Evart Elementary Principal Kenneth Ranjel, in which he detailed the details of the opportunity.

Ranjel was joined by elementary education social worker Tiffany Wolak, third grade teacher Amber Payne and paraprofessional Heather Keathley, all of whom are part of the “Cats for Pups” team.

“The unifying value that we all share is the belief that a dog can serve our population and can serve any population,” Ranjel said. “Especially with the population we serve, there is an opportunity for us to improve the academics and social-emotional learning of our students. It’s for everyone, not just this team.

The group attended the meeting to seek permission to obtain official approval of the form. The proposals were that the group would meet monthly, create a meticulous screening process, get potential dogs approved and rejected, and additionally pursue a full-time therapy dog ​​and three trained handlers in the building.

Ranjel highlighted the benefits of therapy dogs in schools, including dogs not only having a positive effect on emotional well-being, but influencing cognitive development.

According to TherapyDogs.com, interacting with therapy dogs improves students’ reading skills, boosts memory and problem-solving abilities, and even optimizes executive functioning skills.

One of the team’s expressed goals was to create a reading group with therapy dogs for students as part of an initiative to improve reading comprehension and emotional well-being at the same time.

Ranjel said training and selection would be strict.

“They must be highly trained, certified, qualified and run through the range of instruction that would allow them to provide service to students,” Ranjel said.

Ranjel’s first experience of seeing the impact of therapy dogs came following a tragic event at an elementary school he had previously worked for, and dogs were brought in to comfort staff and students. .

He recalled being moved by the difference the dogs made to people of all ages at school during a difficult time.

“I think there is a void that can be filled by therapy dogs,” Ranjel said. “There are many benefits to bringing a therapy dog, not only in elementary school but also in middle school and high school. Ultimately, our goal is to keep students safe and we want to continue their education. , we think this is an avenue to do so.

Going forward, the team aims to train and bring Payne’s dog to school to work as a therapy dog.

Getting the right dogs for the job is essential for the needs of the team and the students and any allergies would be dealt with before a dog enters a classroom or building.

The team members then explained to the council some of the requirements of training therapy dogs and how the dogs could function in buildings.

Ranjel said he does not plan to rush the process.

“We really want to take our time and do it right,” Ranjel said. “We want guests to come with their dogs and read the bands, it’s a great learning opportunity for staff and students. We really want to make sure that this process has somehow been synthesized and that it will be a repeatable process that will keep students safe and also keep us safe as an organization.

Board members voted and unanimously approved the formation of the team and their proposal.

The next scheduled school board meeting will be at 7 p.m. on September 12 at the board office located at 321 North Hemlock St. in Evart.

For more information about the Evart School Board, see the district’s website at www.evartps.org.

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