The parents of a first-grader with autism have reached an agreement with an Ohio school district on how to accommodate both the girl’s service dog and a special-education teacher with a severe allergy to dog dander.
Six-year-old Shyanna Gretz will not go to school in the Athens, Ohio district as planned. Rather, she will attend first grade at the Beacon School, a school in Athens for students with special needs that she attended the previous three years.
Shyanna would enroll in the Athens district next school year.
The plan will provide more time for Shyanna and her trained black Labrador retriever service dog, Spring, to work together at the Beacon School before the two are placed in a classroom in the Athens district, Shyanna’s mother, Charla Gretz, said.
The Beacon School is operated by the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Athens Superintendent Carl D. Martin said the agreement, reached last week, worked for all.
“I am happy to work with the parents,” he said.
Gretz was unhappy when she was told on the first day of class that Shyanna could not attend Morrison-Gordon Elementary School because her first-grade teacher was allergic to dogs. Instead, Shyanna was to go to East Elementary.
Gretz said the change would be too disruptive, and would mean a longer bus ride for Shyanna.
Gretz said, however, that delaying Shyanna’s enrollment in the Athens district by one year will give her and school officials proper time to plan for Shyanna to attend either elementary school.
There is a legal obligation to accommodate students using service dogs as well as students or teachers in the classroom who are allergic, said Sara Clark, an attorney with the Ohio School Boards Association. The recommended solution is separate classrooms, she said.
The Athens district, which has about 2,800 students, is about 75 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio.
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