Categories Elizabethtown Area School DistrictFeaturedNewsSchoolSchool Board News

E-Town Schools Consider Using Therapy Dogs

The Elizabethtown Area School District will consider implementing a therapy dog program for the 2019-20 school year.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18, the school board heard an overview from school nurse Brandon Aukamp, home and school visitor Jennifer Kenny and school counselor Amy Robinson.

Therapy dogs “provide an immediate, tangible option to support students and staff to remove barriers to education,” Kenny said. Kenny said therapy dogs can decrease anxiety and control depression, noting that 476 district students visited guidance counselors for social, emotional and personal issues from the start of the school year through November.

Projected application for the therapy dog or dogs would include Aevidum, ESL, life skills, autistic support, new student tours, crisis, occupational therapy, speech and other needs.

Presenters looked to nearby school districtsthat have already implemented similar pet therapy programs, including Lampeter Strasburg, Penn Manor and Cocalico. Aukamp addressed potential plans for dog-free zones, initial cost and funding from community partners, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, determining handlers and general dog maintenance.

Pending approval, involved parties hope to formalize a therapy dog plan with further details by April 2019.

In another matter, Richard Schwarzman, assistant to the superintendent for student support services and compliance, explained the new Future Ready PA Index as a precursor to the K12 analyses to be presented by Daniel Serfass, assistant to the superintendent for learning, in January 2019.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education created The Future Ready PA Index to serve as Pennsylvania’s one-stop location for comprehensive information about school success. The index uses a dashboard model to highlight how schools are performing and making progress on multiple indicators.

“It’s not a comparison; it’s a collaboration tool,” Schwarzman added. The board intends to evaluate school data — released in late November — before taking action regarding index results and student progress.

Business manager George Longridge presented an update on the 2019-20 budget, including revised projections for salaries, benefits, other large expenses, and revenue and estimates on special education referendum exception.

While numbers will not be finalized until closer to the end of fiscal year (June 30), Longridge provided projected budget increases with a total initial expenditure increase of $3,987,268. This includes factors such as salaries, building and department budgets and technology.

To offset the expenditure increase, Longridge anticipates a revenue increase of approximately $2.2 million. This is due largely in part to a 2.9 percent increase in real estate tax that will generate $1.2 million in revenue to support the district.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to: Appoint a representative to the Lancaster-Lebanon Joint Authority to serve a five-year term beginning Jan. 1; to approve Policy Manual updates 105 (Curriculum), 138 (Language Instruction Educational Program for English Learners) and 302 (Employment of Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent) and to hire McClure Company to replace the middle school auditorium’s main HVAC rooftop unit at a cost of $143,835.

Human Resources Director Richard Toth presented the ABCD Award Winners for the District.

Short for “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty,” ABCD awards recognize and reward support staff professionals who consistently go above and beyond their formal, identified job duties to exceed the needs of students and staff. Honorees are nominated by their peers.

Award recipients include: Missie Heisey, custodian at Mill Road; Shannon Kreider, paraprofessional at East High Street Elementary; and Jody Bitner, licensed practical nurse at Elizabethtown Area Middle School.

About the author