“It just gives us a new outlook, it recharges our battery"

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – As Hillsborough County students prepare for school next week, so are teachers. But after a difficult year dealing with the mental impacts of Coronavirus, teachers say they’re looking for an alternative way to start the year. Teachers and staff at MacFarlane Park Elementary say, ‘dog-gone it’, they may have just figured it out!

Walk into any Hillsborough County School Thursday and you’ll find books, computers, and teachers preparing for next week. But what you won’t find anywhere other than MacFarlane Park Elementary, is a herd of pups roaming the halls.

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“It just gives us a new outlook, it recharges our battery, and it just makes us really happy,” explained Jacqueline Diorio, a teacher at MacFarlane Park Elementary.

Principal Denyse Riveiro OK’d the day now dedicated to “man’s best friend” to help promote mental health before welcoming students back.

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“Last year, we had a difficult year with COVID, as everyone did and planning to come back, to return, and there was a lot of stress. So one of the teachers asked if she was able to bring her dog to school so that it would comfort her,” said Riveiro. “And before we knew it we had like 20-something dogs here at MacFarlane Park.”

“It is absolutely amazing that we have an administrator here that supports us so much,” said Diorio. She loved it so much, she wrote about it. “I ended up publishing a book. It just gives a glimpse of what the classroom’s like in the perspective of an animal.”

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“They stayed in the classrooms, they ate lunch together, they played on the playground together and before you know it, it became a tradition,” said Riveiro “It’s something that is very special and we’re lucky that we have the opportunity to do this. And as we embark on a new school year, this will always be one of my favorite days.”