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Male volunteers act as watchdogs for elementary school

Male volunteers act as watchdogs for elementary school

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. - Men in Woodland Park are going back to school.

Gateway Elementary School is taking part in a national program called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students).  It's meant to engage men, inspire children, reduce bullying and enhance school security.

Principal Kay Lynn Waddell heard about the program from a colleague.  She approached Doug Zurek, a dad and longtime volunteer at the school, to help start the program for the 2013 school year.  

Zurek's daughter is a first-grader at Gateway.  He told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that he enjoys seeing her progress at school firsthand.  It also allows him to be a positive role model for students who miss that at home.

"Some of them don't have dads," Zurek said.  "Dads are either gone in the military, or there's just not a dad at home."

Waddell said that since the program began, she's noticed a big difference in student behavior.

"We've actually seen a reduction in office referrals from discipline from the playground and the lunchroom," Waddell told KRDO NewsChannel 13.  "It has exceeded our expectations. The support from our male figures and our fathers here at the school has been a tremendous asset to our school culture."

In addition to making connections with the kids, Zurek and the other volunteer Watch D.O.G.S. act as security for the school.

"The teachers have to concentrate on the classroom so they can't be wandering the halls," Zurek said.  "The principal and office staff have their duties they have to do so they can't be here for just security; but we can set that in our schedule."

The Watch D.O.G.S. ensure doors are locked when students are indoors, conduct perimeter checks and watch for suspicious behavior.

"They are another set of eyes," Waddell said.  "We have several fathers and grandfathers who have law enforcement backgrounds or who are currently in law enforcement so they really have a good perspective on things for campus security."

To become a volunteer, men go through an application process and background check.   Volunteers at the school range from dads, grandpas and uncles to spouses of teachers. Gateway Elementary School hopes to gain more volunteers throughout the school year and have multiple Watch D.O.G.S. on duty each day.

To learn more about the program, click here.

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