Forest City School District Prepares Therapy Dog to Support Students | News

Rob Hillesland Summit-Tribune

Forest City High School principal Ken Baker announced plans for a school therapy dog ​​at the January 11 school board meeting.

Baker said Ryan Smith, a Forest City middle and high school special education instructor, acquired and trained a dog named Tracker for the role.

“Ryan worked with people,” Baker said. “He has invested time and is training Tracker to be a therapy dog. A good therapy dog ​​will sense a person’s anxiety. He is very calming when interacting with children.”

Baker said Tracker was already creating positive relationships with students at Forest City and was a very well-behaved animal. He did not provide a timeline for the future therapy dog’s progression into the role.

Baker also reported that Forest City’s Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates program is gaining momentum. He said more than 40 students from Forest City High School participate in iJAG, which is offered during the school day.

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“I’m happy with the iJAG program from what I’ve observed,” Baker said. “I spent three days with them. Last week there were career exploration activities. It’s not necessarily just a risky program. It’s for any child. I’m working on .”

Forest City launched its iJAG program this school year. The program aims to increase graduation rates, improve workforce skills, and help students make a successful transition to life after high school. While it started with a focus on high school students nearing graduation, the district hopes to expand the program to include lower-grade students in the future.

Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said the school district continues to work with ISG and CEG on the initial planning for the school’s proposed solar energy project. The solar installation would go on undeveloped school grounds behind its baseball and football fields.

Lehmann said the project could be tendered for construction in February, with board approval, with bids received March 11 and a public hearing March 14.

Lehmann said the district could “consider a spring start date” for construction with a goal of completion in the fall. Board Chairman Gary Ludwig suggested having an interactive update on the progress of the renewable energy project on the district’s website.

In other matters, the members of the council approved:

New Federal Funds Policies and Procedures Manual as requested by District Auditor to comply with Federal requirements.

Resignations of employees from Dawn Plessel, Food Service; Anne Stene, FCHS Student Council Advisor (at the end of the school year); Amanda Shirk, paraprofessional; and Inga Nelson, Custodian (at year end).

Applications for early retirement benefits, with resignation at the end of the 2021-22 school year, from teachers Linda Putney, Mike Van Oort and Cathy Kruse.

Claims for early retirement benefits, with the intention of resigning at the end of the 21-23 school year, of the following teachers Gail McCarthy, Debra Kleveland, Dan Rosacker, Teresa Pietsch and Murray Anderson.

Rob Hillesland is Community Editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534 or by email at

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