Some concerns about pets in the classroom were raised this year, primarily citing care for the animals during breaks, weekends and summers, as well as citing the health concerns pets in the classroom may cause, including moderate to severe allergic reactions, as well as potential exposure to dangerous bacterias, like salmonella.
Animal Studies and Care in Schools
As a unit of study or in support of a lesson plan or curriculum delivery, a school or a classroom may find it appropriate to have animals as part of their study. For example, a school may have an established science room with various animals available throughout the school year for various classes or students to study habitats, animal behaviors, ecosystems, cycles etc. During the time the animals are in the school for studies, each school must establish a plan for caring for the animals outside of school hours, including weekends, breaks and summer holidays, as custodial staff or other district personnel will not be able to assist with care for the animals during or outside of school hours.
Parents, students and staff should be well-informed on the potential exposures to animals and allergies. Children may need special determinations or considerations if they are immunocompromised, have moderate to severe allergies, or have asthma. Children who have these kinds of potential risks could be in jeopardy by exposure to animals in the classroom and their dander.
According the Centers of Disease Control, “Healthy reptiles and amphibians can carry Salmonella and other germs that make people sick—especially young children.” They continue to discuss the risks associated with potential exposure to salmonella from reptiles, including lizards, turtles, snakes and frogs. (Cite: https://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellafrogturtle/index.html). If these types of animals are used for classroom studies, great care should be taken to follow recommended hygiene guidelines to avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli.
Each classroom and teacher will need to take these risks into consideration when considering the use of live animals in the classroom for the purpose of enhancing a lesson plan or delivering required curriculum. Animals in the classroom can make for a great learning experience when done with diligence and intention, and the school district continues to support the studies as appropriate and with all students and families in mind.