NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) – The Newton Falls School District is focusing on students’ mental health in a special way this year.
Newton Falls’ elementary and junior high students will have new classmates this fall — Junie B. Jones and Albus Dumbledore.
The 9-week-old Labradoodles will serve as therapy dogs for students to offer additional social-emotional support for the kids who need it.
“It’s going to help kids who have anger issues and kids who get upset very easily. The dogs are going to help to be a coping mechanism for them. It’s going to be a calming mechanism for the students,” said Principal Justin Christopher, Newton Falls Elementary/Middle School.
As students prepare to return to the classroom next week, for some, this is their first time in over a year because of the pandemic.
“You know how a child’s face lights up with an animal? If they can have just that kind of moment during a stressful day with all the new avenues that COVID has brought upon our children, our families, our school system. We welcome any kind of measure such as this,” said President Aime Crawford, Newton Falls Board of Education.
The school district worked closely with a local veterinarian to determine the best type of dog as far as health-wise, temperament and durability.
“We checked everything from the type of coat, the sherpa coat, versus colorings. That kind of thing,” Crawford said.
During the school day, the dogs will be with guidance counselors but they also plan to pay visits to classrooms as rewards for students.
“The whole driving force behind this is to increase positive culture and community within the building,” said Assistant Principal Rachel Rankin, Newton Falls Junior/Senior High School.
Both dogs begin puppy kindergarten at the end of September, followed by therapy training at three months old, six months old and nine months old.