CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Some West Virginia schools will have a new face joining students this year: therapy dogs to offer companionship and comfort.
Friends With Paws will be a partnership between the governor’s office, West Virginia Communities in Schools Nonprofit and the state Department of Education.
The dogs will be placed in schools in counties where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse or other at-risk situations, Gov. Jim Justice’s office said.
Justice and first lady Cathy Justice announced the program Friday.
A black Labrador retriever named Coal will be placed at Welch Elementary School in McDowell County. More dogs will be placed throughout the year, with an initial goal of at least 10 dogs in West Virginia schools in 2022.
Cathy Justice said Katie Morris, special assistant to the first lady, will be dog czar for the program.
“These therapy dogs, who are trained by people with a combined 50 years of experience, can help reduce anxiety in classrooms around the state and just be a friend for our students,” Morris said.