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Pet posts give students ‘a reason to smile’

Elementary principal enlists the help of staff pets for student encouragement

When South Elementary Principal Darla England got an email from a student wondering if the school’s comfort dog, C.C., was okay, she had an idea to stay connected to students during the school closure.

Every day that the school is closed, she will post photos of her staff’s family pets encouraging students and families to respond back to their teachers. Sometimes pets will encourage students to read or write; other times, they will simply be used to check in with students in the community.

One photo posted pictures teacher Kim Hyde reading to C.C. from “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover.” With the photo, England asked students what their favorite bedtime story is, encouraging them to post their answers.

“During these times of uncertainty, we want to make sure that our families and students know that we are here for them and there is still reason to smile and be joyful,” England said. “South is all about meeting social and emotional needs through the support of our comfort dog, and this seemed like a logical step to stay connected to our kiddos when we can’t be with them.”

The school’s Facebook page will serve as the main source of information for South Elementary families during the school shutdown.

“Our Facebook page is an important medium for conveying news about food delivery, e-learning and other important school information,” England said. “Hopefully, this will also encourage families to check our page regularly for those updates as well.”

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Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.

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