The Ladysmith School Board will review the use of a therapy dog in buildings.

School counselor Doug Dieckman has a dog that he has begun training as a therapy dog. The dog is a miniature goldendoodle. He was bringing him in as part of his training, however he is not yet fully certified as a therapy dog.  

School Board President Todd Novakofski told the board during its May 22 meeting last Thursday that the dog growled at him at school.

“I had walked into the office and the dog came out and growled at me,” Novakofski said.

The dog was in Dieckman’s office, and when students arrived upset or agitated the dog was there to help calm students down as many pets do in their own households, according to School District Administrator Paul Uhren.

After the incident, Novakofski researched school district policy for animals in schools. He said policy allows animals in schools that are necessary for staff or students for therapy.

“As a general therapy dog it needs to be certified as having been trained under a certified program. Doug’s dog is going to have its therapy dog training this summer. It has been undergoing obedience training apparently, but it has not been certified as a therapy dog at this point,” Novakofski said. “I agree they are a wonderful thing, but you don’t want a dog that isn’t certified even if it is a nice dog being obedience trained and bite someone.”

The dog has been removed from buildings.

“[It’s] in order to protect the school from getting sued or something else like that,” Novakofski said.

The therapy dog matter will be on the board’s next meeting, June 12.

Board member Gerard Schueller said he has been questioned about the dog being removed. He said the dog in training is no different than teachers in training.

“I have no problem with that dog.  Actually he doesn’t growl. He barks. He never growls. He barks,” Schueller said.

“The dog will return after he is fully certified,” Uhren said.

Novakofski said it would be nice to have a therapy dog in school, calling it a good idea.

“The kids like it,” Schueller said.

“It all started with me just wondering and wanting to make sure the school is safe,” Novakofski said.

In other matters, the board:

— Heard staff member Rick Vollendorf ask about a plan to offer calculus next school year. School District Administrator Paul Uhren said a small calculus class will be offered resulting in larger geometry classes, which was the choice of the math department.

— Heard board member Chrysa Ostenso comment about safety issues in the new Ladysmith Elementary School student dropoff area off E. Sixth Street. She suggested making E. Seventh Street a one-way street only northbound from Miner Avenue, leading away from the school. Drivers currently are lining the street on both sides of streets in front of the school, creating a bottleneck at Miner Avenue. School officials also noted observing faster traffic speeds after downtown road construction started several blocks from the school. One-way streets are designated by the Ladysmith Common Council, not the school board.

— Heard Principal Bob Lecheler report class sizes next year will be a little larger, and a significant adjustment to the end of the day schedule will occur through the addition of a new “lab time” to provide additional support for students with intervention and support in a 6-week rotation.

— Heard Uhren report SFB is still interested in supporting the school district in its quest for financing any future athletic field improvements. The facilities are currently being studied.

— Voted 6-0 to approve the resignation of Kelly Johnson as special education paraprofessional.

— Announced the board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on June 12.

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