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By Richard Schattman, principal, WES
On January 8, the Waitsfield Elementary School Board adopted an "Animals in the School" policy to help guide its approach in this area. In addition, the board endorsed a set of procedures for the implementation of the policy.
The policy states, "The Waitsfield School Board recognizes that the presence of animals at school can provide a valuable learning experience but they cannot be allowed to endanger student safety or disrupt learning. There should be a clear instructional or therapeutic purpose for keeping an animal in a school classroom.
In addition, the Waitsfield School Board recognizes that instruction related to the care and treatment of animals teaches students a sense of responsibility and promotes the humane treatment of living creatures. It is the policy of the school to notify parents of students in a classroom when an animal is being introduced. It is the policy of the Waitsfield Elementary School to support the inclusion of service animals as part of its compliance with federal and state law as well as its belief that our school community values those with different needs and seeks to support them to be fully included in a manner that fosters greater independence."
The board believes that the time is right for the development of a policy that will guide the school's practices with animals. Principal Richard Schattman stated that there is a place for animals in schools. "Animals have a great deal to teach us; they create learning opportunities and provide a context for children to learn about their humane treatment." The WES now has a service dog. This policy helps to clarify the school's position and obligations with regard to the inclusion of service animals in its program.
Superintendent Robert McNamara indicated that the board's policy is a model that other schools may choose to follow. This policy will be submitted to the Vermont School Board Association so that other schools may consider its adoption. If you would like to see a complete copy of the policy, please visit the school's web site at www.waitsfieldelementary.org .