Starside wants all-day dads
Dads of Starside Elementary School students will soon be seen walking to school along with their children.
In February, the school will begin a volunteer program to help bring positive male role models into students' lives called Watch D.O.G.S., which stands for Dads Of Great Students.
"They'll give up one whole day a year to come and spend at the school," said Principal Paula Hill. "We often have mothers coming to volunteer and this is a way to get fathers involved."
The program is also open to grandfathers, uncles or other men who wish to participate. Volunteers might spend the day watching over children at recess and lunch, tutoring individual students or helping a teacher during class time.
Watch D.O.G.S. has already been implemented in several area schools, including Broken Arrow in the Shawnee Mission district. Prairie Ridge Elementary School in Shawnee is also beginning the program this week.
The program was launched nationwide in 1998 in response to the school shooting at Jonesboro, Ark.
Starside's Watch D.O.G.S. program kicked off its first pizza night Monday. Dads learned about the program and signed up to volunteer. Dads who volunteer have particular rules to follow, such as not using the same bathroom as the students, not using profanity and not being left alone with the students.
School counselor Paula Henderson said school officials were delighted by the response of parent volunteers. She said about 70 dads signed up for the program at Monday's event. That would fill every day left in the school's calendar except for 13 days. Some volunteers even signed up twice, and Henderson said the school was expecting more after some fathers checked work schedules.
"We were really pleased," she said. "They are going to be helping anywhere that's needed in the building. We'll make sure they assist part of the day in their child's classroom."
She said the school was careful about the men who would be volunteering.
"It's just the dads. It's not someone off the street, so there's a difference there," she said.
Henderson said she anticipates a positive effect in the students from the presence of their fathers.
"I think sometimes dads don't feel as comfortable in a school setting as a mom does who is up here more, but it doesn't have to be like that. We want them to know everyone is welcome at Starside."