HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – With school closings for a year and a half, social distancing and virtual learning, more students are struggling with anxiety and mental health issues due to the pandemic. As more districts work to bring social and emotional support to the campus, a Hot Springs school has added a friend to the halls forever.
Every morning, four legs and a wagging tail wait to greet students at Park Magnet School, an IB World School, before the first bell rings
“I like to see her every day,” said first grader Layla West.
“I enjoy it,” said fifth grader Parker Davis.
Zoey is the newest member of the team. Your job is to wander the hallways and put a smile on the faces of the students after a few years.
â€œWe are much more afraid of our children than we were a few years ago. They are anxious and nervous and have a lot to do, â€said Headmistress Sarah Oatsvall.
Oatsvall adopted Zoey through the Paws in Prison program. She is trained to help students with everything from anxiety to depression.
â€œShe has a very special job for some of our kindergarten children. We meet them at the car and that really gives them something to think about instead of having to leave mom or dad. You get out of the car, are with Zoey and help her get in, â€said Oatsvall.
From a little more love to performing some pretty cool tricks, there is something for these students to look forward to every day
“Having a dog at school is just a little more luck,” said Oatsvall.
Teachers also use Zoey as a reward. If students are behaving well or getting good grades, they can go to the office and read to her.