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  • Fairbury News staff

Therapy dog in the works

PC Board members view a video presentation on therapy dogs Thursday.

Plans for a therapy dog to be incorporated into the classroom were presented by a couple of teachers during Thursday’s regular monthly meeting of the Prairie Central Board of Education.

Kim Hasty and Amanda Williams, ACES III teachers at the high school, presented information on a therapy dog working with students who have special needs. The dog will be hypoallergenic, fully trained, maintained by a veterinarian and fully insured. All costs associated with the dog will be funded through program donations.

“We want a dog that is medium to large in size and we want the dog to be able to walk up to the wheelchair and put its head on their lap,” explained Williams.

The animal would help students cope in the classroom and regulate their emotions. This program involves two levels.

“They’re also learning the life skills part of caring for a pet or for someone else,” added Hasty.

Unlike a service dog, a therapy dog is not tied to one person – it is intended to calm emotions in a group setting, although it does have a handler. The dog could benefit those with behavioral disorders, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injuries or post traumatic stress disorder.

The two teachers pointed to the academic and physical benefits of a therapy dog, such as reducing blood pressure and helping with fine motor skills. Hasty plans to have the dog as her family’s pet when not at school and is looking at the bernedoodle or goldendoodle breeds.

This program could take a year to be launched due to training and certification. The board supports the initiative but did not have to formally approve it since existing board policy approves a program such as this.

Brian Quam, director of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology for K-12, focus on 7-12, announced plans for a teacher institute coming Feb. 17 which begins in the morning. An administrator from Tennessee, who is considered a You Tube sensation, is coming to the event at the First Baptist Church. The church provides lunch for the staff and the afternoon will include training.

During the superintendent’s report, Paula Crane reported on building projects. She said they would like to get the high school gym painted before the new floor goes down. The start time for the floor will be moved up to May 1 since the project is lengthy. This will impact graduation, summer activities and the start of volleyball.

The bidding process was approved by the board for the new gym floor with the bid to be voted on at the Feb. 16 meeting.

Graduation will most likely take place on the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend at the football field with a back-up date of the following Saturday.

Information is still being collected by the architect for specs of the new ag and I.T. addition to the high school. Groundbreaking is set for spring or early summer. Meanwhile, the new football field lights and poles will be erected after a hard freeze occurs to avoid creating additional ruts near the field. Electrical work remains on schedule.

Board President Mark Slagel gave the Transportation Committee report, which included fuel bids and the purchase of a bus. Ken’s Oil Service was the low bidder for fuel at $3.68.5 per gallon for diesel fuel, compared to Evergreen FS at $3.75. The board approved a motion for 50,000 gallons from Ken’s Oil.

An activity bus purchase was authorized. This is a 2020 Bluebird for $54,900 which holds 14 passengers. Activity buses can be driven by anyone with a license, meaning coaches and sponsors can often drive them to events when drivers are not available.

“We are using these white buses more and more for after school events,” noted Slagel.

Under new business, the Prairie Central Board of Education:

-Granted a request from the FFA for an overnight stay at contests and tours in Scotland and Ireland this summer for the National Champion Dairy Judging Team. This trip will be taken June 1-July 3.

-Approved an overnight stay for the FFA on Feb. 17 in St. Libory for a meat judging contest.

-Received a draft proposal of the FY24 school calendar, which is similar to the current year. A final approve will come in February.

-Changed the March meeting to begin at 8 a.m. on March 16 to give the board time to tour all of the district buildings and complete the business meeting before the FFA auction starts that evening.

Following an executive session, the board:

· Approved leaves for Jim Dooley and J. Meyers.

· Appointed Jonathan Puttkammer as night custodian at PCE and PCP West effective immediately.

· Appointed Brian Smith as bus monitor effective immediately.

· Appointed Kathleen Brown as bus driver effective immediately.

· Accepted the resignation with intent to retire of Gina Weber, 1st grade teacher at PCP East, effective the end of the 2024-25 school year.

· Accepted the resignation with intent to retire of Kyle Miller, HS Ag teacher, effective the end of the 2025-26 school year.

· Accepted the resignation of Mike Brown, PCJH custodian effective January 31, 2023.

· Terminated Melissa McClellan, café worker, effective January 20, 2023.

· Accepted the resignation of Andrew Quain, HS head varsity football coach, effective the end of the 2022-23 school year.

· Accepted the resignation with intent to retire of Celina Stefanski, PCP East paraprofessional, effective August 11, 2023.

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