Waxahachie ISD has a new facility dog walking the halls of Northside Elementary School this year.
Patches, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, will be on campus to help lower stress and lift the spirits of students and faculty.
Erica Brown, an assistant principal at Northside, found Patches through Canine Companions, an agency that places service dogs with those who are disabled and in professional environments having to do with healthcare, education, and criminal justice.
Brown attended dog training school over the summer to learn how to properly communicate with Patches. Then she, in turn, trained the school staff in preparation for the facility dog’s arrival.
Getting ready for the new school year, Brown and the rest of the school’s employees made sure Patches was included in the Top Gun-themed welcome billboard – aviator shades and all.
“We’re always looking to connect with children,” Waxahachie Superintendent Jerry Hollingsworth told NBC 5. “This is a very positive place already, but adding Patches is just another way that we’re able to reach children.”
Dogs come to Canine Companions as puppies and are raised by volunteers who take them to obedience classes, feed them a healthy diet, socialize with them, and give them lots of love.
“Humans need love and eye contact and one-on-one interaction,” Brown said. “I hope this trailblazes the way for other people who want to do it.”
While there is no real evidence that animals promote learning, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, “the presence of a dog in an educational setting seems to support concentration, attention, motivation, and relaxation reflecting reduction of high stress levels which inhibit effective learning and performance.”
Waxahachie ISDs 2020-2021 overall passing STAAR scores for all subjects was 74%, faring slightly better than failing Dallas ISD, whose overall passing rate for the STAAR was 73%.
A four-year longitudinal study on the latter district’s class of 2020 found that only 82.8% of Dallas ISD students graduated high school on time, compared to a statewide rate of 90.3%. Waxahachie ISD did better than the statewide figure, clocking 93.7%.