ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. – The newest staff member at an elementary school is a dog. Lass is now in the classrooms at a Rockbridge County school.
"I feel confident that she's going to be an incredible asset to us here at school," said Sally Moore, a math teacher.
Lass is walking the halls full-time this year after visiting last year.
"We try to meet the needs of our kids no matter what that need might be. Academically, I think we're pretty spot-on. Socially, emotionally, that can be a little trickier for schools to meet, and when we saw the reaction with Lass with our students just for the few visits she was here, we thought why not, we're willing to try anything," said Lori Teague, Mountain View Elementary principal.
Lass is part of a pilot program at Mountain View Elementary. She's working with a special needs class of students with autism and classes with her owner, Moore, who teaches third, fourth and fifth grade math.
"One of her strengths is she's a very intuitive dog. She tends to gravitate towards people who maybe need that extra little nudge of encouragement," said Moore.
"She really is an extra special dog," said Teague, who added she hopes the furry friend gives students confidence. "If you were to watch her in a classroom full of students, she kind of gravitates to the student that in the back of a teacher's mind needs that extra hug, where it's not always appropriate to walk over and hug a kid, but a dog going over and putting a head on a lap is perfect."
Teague says this helps students with autism learn to play with others, a skill that's been hard in the past. It was a successful effort over the summer when Lass was working with that classroom. School leaders are going to see how this year goes and maybe expand the program next year.