The Swanton Board of Education on Dec. 18 approved a policy that would allow for the use of therapy dogs in the district.
Samantha Schmidt brought Charlie, a therapy dog, with her as she spoke to the board about potential benefits. Schmidt, an intervention specialist at Swanton Elementary School, said the presence of a dog can be calming for struggling readers and other students.
“Another thing I found, that I wasn’t really looking for, but the kids are more excited to come to school when there is a therapy dog there,” said Schmidt. “They just had more excitement about seeing the dog in the school.”
Some students are already familiar with Charlie, who visits the Swanton Public Library. “I go to the library about twice a month, and kids can sign up to read to him,” said Schmidt.
That experience helped lead Schmidt to ask about bringing Charlie into the elementary school.
The current plan would be to have Charlie in Schmidt’s classroom, and always on a leash. He could also go with her as she visits other classrooms.
“I would always have to be with him if he is going to be around the kids. That’s just how the certification works,” she said.
Superintendent Chris Lake and Elementary School Principal Kristi Molter were both supportive.
Molter said kids are excited when they hear Charlie will be at the library. “To know that the dog could be in our school would be wonderful,” she added.
Also, at the meeting there was further discussion on a possible change to start times for next school year. Jeff Bella, district transportation director, researched the feasibility of having start times for elementary and high school/middle school closer together or at the same.
“Unfortunately, that idea’s not going to work,” said Lake. “It actually creates a situation where we’d have to pick up kids even earlier than we do now in order to do that scenario. It really would create more of a mess for us than anything.”
Adding buses to allow for closer start times would be costly. Bella said five new buses and bus drivers would be needed. Also, current bus drivers would see a cut in hours.
So the district will most likely still have about an hour gap between the start times for elementary school and high school/middle school.
Lake said he will have a start times proposal on the agenda at the January board meeting.
• Outgoing Board Member Shannon Crow was thanked for her years of service.
“Our district will miss you, I will miss you, and we all appreciate everything you’ve done,” said fellow board member Kris Oberheim. “This is one of those thankless jobs, and we typically only hear from people when they disagree, but I’m here to thank you for all your time, dedication, and sleepless nights.”
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010 or on Twitter @Swan_Enterprise