HAMLER — Members of the Patrick Henry Local Schools Board of Education Monday were introduced to a therapy dog that will have a presence on the site twice a week.
Winrows Endless Boomin Bub, also known as “Boomer,” is a Bernese mountain dog owned by the Fitzenreiters, who are allowing him to volunteer at Patrick Henry. Born in 2016, he is new to the field of being a therapy dog, but he is registered through The Alliance of Therapy Dogs. He was trained through Talk Dog Toledo, he passed the Canine Good Citizen Test and then passed his therapy dog evaluation to become certified.
Anita Hieber, guidance staff for grades 7-9 at the district, told the board studies have shown the presence of and interaction with a dog can lower stress levels and decrease blood pressure. She also noted, according to the Ohio Department of Education, teen depression is rising and suicide is now the leading cause of death of Ohioans ages 10-14 and is the second-leading cause in ages 15-34. It was also reported a national survey finds 8-10% of adolescents have anxiety.
Hieber added the presence of a dog also presents opportunities for students to read to a “patient, nonjudgmental listener.” She also noted a therapy dog can lift moods and sense when people are upset, and petting a dog can lower stress hormones.
Boomer is currently scheduled to be on the campus Mondays and Fridays. He is currently scheduled for half days, but there are plans to progress this to full days. Hieber said the scheduling is intentional as there is a hope to improve students’ moods coming out of the weekend and after a full week of school.
In implementing the therapy dog at Patrick Henry, Superintendent Josh Biederstedt said the district already has policies in place for service dogs and animals in general on the campus.
Hieber said the goals for featuring a therapy dog include increasing empathy and compassion, improving self esteem, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, and improving the school climate. She added the presence of a therapy dog will also lift the moods of teachers and staff, leading to a positive result for the overall school climate.
Hieber also said Boomer’s presence will allow students opportunities to learn about his breed and how to interact with animals if they have not before. A presentation was shared that is directed toward the students. The students learn that an animal wearing the red therapy vest is working and should not be approached without permission, how to approach a dog, how to pet a dog and other rules of caring for an animal.
The board also:
•Heard a report from student liaison Natalie Meyer, who shared information on the district’s recent Halloween dress-up day, new National Honor Society inductions, students attending a program on vaping/e-cigarettes, the recent alumni basketball event, the recent Veterans Day program, a recent Keeping Our Girls Safe self-defense program and auditions for the spring musical. Biederstedt added he has received messages from community members voicing appreciation and support for the district’s Veterans Day program.
•Learned the next senior citizen community meal will be held Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. A K-2 grandparents day is planned to follow the meal.
•Learned the district’s annual Cabaret event is scheduled for Dec. 14. It was noted this is the 50th anniversary of the event.
•Discussed the recent Capital Conference, at which Biederstedt and Director of Technology Dustin Ruffell made a presentation on personalizing staff development. Board Member Mark Feehan also attended the conference, complimenting both on their presentation.
•Heard from Biederstedt on a proposed mid-year mailing for district residents. Biederstedt said the district issues an annual calendar, he found many people are getting district information from that mailing. A mid-year mailing was proposed to highlight items from each school, and an example was shown to board members Monday. Biederstedt said information on cost is still being sought, but, if approved, he anticipates the mailing will be made in January.
•Set meeting dates for December and January. The board will meet Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. next month. Because school districts are required to organize in 2020 before Jan. 15, the board will meet Monday, Jan. 13 with an organizational meeting at 6:30 p.m. and the regular session to follow.
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