Therapy dogs may be a new feature in Mt. Pleasant schools after the school board approved the first reading of guidelines for the use of professional therapy dogs.
The dogs would be owned by individuals and allowed to be brought into the schools as long as they meet the policy guidelines. The school board hopes that therapy dogs could provide emotional and physical support to students.
“The dog would be able to be a regular fixture and resource at the buildings to help students in many ways — improve the atmosphere or help a student who might be escalated in behavior. I’m excited about this,” said superintendent John Henriksen during a school board meeting on Monday, July 8.
Dogs would be owned by an employee at an individual building. Dogs would not be owned by the Mt. Pleasant Community School District.
The dogs must be certified with their owners or handlers as Certified Assistance Dog Teams. They will be certified with Therapy Dogs International or Public Access testing before being allowed in a school building.
Training and other costs associated with the dogs are the responsibility of the owners or handlers. The use of a therapy dog must be approved by the administrator of the building where the professional therapy dog’s handler works. A letter of approval will be written and kept on file in that building and a copy sent to the district’s Central Office.
Before a dog can work in a school building, the owner must provide a record of annual vaccinations the dog receives and be given annual comprehensive wormer and other testing.
A district employee using a professional therapy dog must be covered by their private insurance policy.
In other news, the school board approved to renew a lease agreement for the Mt. Pleasant Community School District’s Central Office at 1010 East Washington Street, Suite 102. The agreement is for a three-year lease with a little over 3 percent increase in rent annually.
Henriksen said that while this takes care of a location for Central Office in the short term, the school board needs to begin considering a permanent Central Office location.
Jennifer Crull, school board member, said it’s something they need to discuss strategically in school board work sessions.
The lease is with former school board member Karl Braun, who stepped down from the school board on June 30 because of a conflict of interest. The school board has 30 days to select someone to take Braun’s place and seat the new school board member.
They will hold a special session on July 18, at 4 p.m. to seat the new school board member.
Angie Blint has submitted paperwork to be a new school board member.