County organizations taking safety information to schools

STATHAM - Statham Elementary School students get a change from regular class work today to learn about wildlife safety, emergency medicine and dog bite prevention.

Those are three of six subjects offered in the Barrow County Safety Zone, a new program organized by the Tree House designed to reduce childhood injuries.

The Barrow County Safety Zone will visit every elementary school in Barrow County, except Kennedy Elementary School. Each 20-minute program is set up in different areas of the school, such as the gym, the auditorium or outside. Kindergarten through fifth-grade students rotate through each area, or zone, forming a two-hour block of time for each grade level.

"Fire Prevention and Tree House were already giving programs in the schools," said Mary Beth Lee, social work intern at Tree House. "This way we have more organizations going in on the same day, and it gives teachers a wider selection of programs they might not have known about."

This is the program's first year. Barrow County Safety Zone's first visit was to Yargo Elementary School on Nov. 17. Plans are to expand into middle and high school, possibly by next school year.

Today's scheduled programs at Statham Elementary include wildlife safety presented by the Forestry Commission; emergency medicine - Barrow County Fire and Emergency Services; Water Safety - American Red Cross; car safety - Barrow County Health Department; Tobacco Prevention - Highland House; Poison Prevention - Family Connection; and dog safety - Winder Police Department.

Titan, a Winder Police dog trained to sniff out drugs, is bathed, brushed and ready to go for his day as teacher. Titan and Sgt. Henry Schotter regularly teach classes in dog bite prevention.

"The classes began in response to an incident in which a 3-year-old Auburn child was the victim of severe dog bites," Schotter said.

Titan is friendly and maintains his cool demeanor around large groups of children. Nevertheless, Titan is a uniquely trained worker - not a pet.

"The biggest thing I have to deal with is adults who will walk right up to us," Schotter said. "Titan is trained to guard and protect. So I tell the kids, 'Go home and teach your parents not to walk right up to a K9 officer and his dog.' That way, they don't just leave school and forget, because they have to remember to tell their parents."

The Barrow County Safety Zone is formed by a coalition that includes the American Red Cross, Athens Regional Medical Center, Barrow County Family Connection, Barrow County Fire and Emergency Services, Barrow County Health Department, Barrow County School System, Barrow Regional Medical Center, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Forestry Commission, The Highland House, The Tree House and the Winder Police Department.