After last year’s knife attack, the therapy dogs were on hand to greet students, and school board President Larry Borland was not surprised to see the effect the animals had immediately.
“It was extremely impactful and immeasurably helpful,” Borland said.
Next year those same positive effects will be available to the district’s elementary schools, as the Franklin Regional BARK program enjoyed a successful introduction of therapy dogs in a reading program in 2014-2015.
Therapy dogs are trained and evaluated in a partnership with the Westmoreland County Obedience Trainingt Center. The dogs are being introduced to elementary school children as “literacy mentors”
“We’ll have a session, and all the kids are asking, ‘When are the dogs coming back?’” said Sloan Elementary School reading specialist Hope Schilling. “And many of the volunteer handlers are former teachers, so they work very well with the kids.”
“No one’s judging them,” said Newlonsburg reading teacher Shannon McCullough. “You can hear them telling the dogs, ‘Oh, I forgot to show you this picture,’ or ‘Oops, I skipped reading this word.’”