Southside Middle School

Home of the Spartans

Character ~ Citizenship ~ Community ~ Courage

Southside News

Book Fair is coming to Southside.

It will be held from December 5-9 in the library
and will be open during school hours.

On December 3rd from 10am -2 we will hold a Family Event.

Report Cards were sent home with students on Wednesday, 11/16/22.

Yearbooks for Sale - Purchase early and save

Bring all of the meaningful moments home in the 2023 Southside yearbook.

Don't miss out on this early sales promotion of $20 up until January 27th, 2023. After January 27th the price increases to $25. Payment plans are available.

Click the link below to order yours today.

Yearbook Link

Nick, Southside's Therapy Dog will now be visiting Southside on Wednesday's and Friday's.

Manchester schools use therapy dogs to help students in need
Paul Feely, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
Fri, October 14, 2022 at 4:13 AM·5 min read

At 17 months old, it's safe to say Nick is the Manchester School District's youngest employee.

He may not speak, but he's a good listener — and already a welcome addition to daily life at Southside Middle School. "I love seeing him," said Aiden Urena, 14, an eighth grader. "He makes everything calmer."

Nick, a golden retriever, is one of three new therapy dogs working this fall in Manchester schools under a new policy approved last June. Research shows that having a therapy dog in a school environment can help reduce stress and anxiety while increasing student achievement and attendance and influencing positive behavior. "Knowing we're coming off COVID, it's just trying to get something back in the schools, something exciting, something happy," said Superintendent Jenn Gillis. "It's as much for kids as for the adults.

"Last June, Manchester school board members approved the use of certified therapy animals in schools in hopes of improving some students' academic performance. Gillis said the idea came about after watching Patch, the Manchester Police Department's therapy dog, interact with people at some of the city's COVID-19 vaccination clinics. "I watched people uneasy with getting the vaccine touch him and feel better," Gillis said.

School officials believe therapy animals will "support students in their educational needs." "Having therapy animals in the schools could increase staff retention and help students with their academic goals," according to background information presented on the policy.

Southside Middle School Principal Kelly Espinola told school board members the benefits of therapy animals in schools are "numerous," especially when it involves gaining confidence in reading. "Children feel more comfortable reading to an animal because they can just read; they don't have to worry about us correcting them," Espinola said. "Therapy animals can create a welcoming feeling when going to school."

Espinola is Nick's owner and handler. Hamilton, Nick's brother, is owned by Gillis, and a third therapy dog, Oliver — a French bulldog — is with Green Acres Elementary School Assistant Principal Colleen Fields. The district assumes no responsibility for the training, feeding, grooming or care of any therapy animal permitted to attend school under the policy. Instead, the designated handler is responsible for ensuring proper care, hygiene and supervision. "The district didn't pay for any of the training. We did it all on our own," Gillis said. All three dogs were trained by Rebecca Carr at Peace of Mind Canine Training in Concord.

Dog days are better.

Therapy dogs aren't service dogs. A service dog focuses on its owner's needs to the exclusion of all else. Therapy dogs can help teach empathy and appropriate interpersonal skills, help students develop social skills and improve students' ability to pick up social cues important in human relationships. Espinola said students ask for time with Nick for a wide range of reasons. "A death in the family, for sure," Espinola said. "The death of an animal. Some kids just have down-in-the-dumps days, and they come talk to him, and talk to me. I have a bin of toys that they can play with." "I am outside every morning, and kids will get out of a car and say, 'My day just got better' because Nick is here. I joke with them, 'You guys aren't that excited to see me.'"

According to a recent report, children working with therapy dogs are more motivated to learn, resulting in better performance. Research into the effects of therapy dogs in schools has shown a range of benefits, from better attendance to gains in confidence and improved attitudes toward learning. For the purposes of the policy, a "therapy animal" refers to any animal individually trained and certified to do work or perform tasks that support student academic achievement. Manchester's therapy animal policy states that work or tasks performed by a therapy animal must be directly related to the tasks the animal has been trained and certified for, and must be connected to the social and emotional well-being of the students. The policy requires therapy animals be kept on a harness, leash or tether (unless this prevents the animal from performing its specific work or tasks) or must otherwise be under the control of its handler at all times. The animals display a designated vest or patch.

Espinola slowly began introducing Nick to the Southside school community at the start of the school year, initially for just one day a week, then on Wednesday and Thursdays. She hopes to bump it up to three days by next week. "One thing I'd like to do is try to find a comparable year, and see if attendance has been better on Wednesdays and Fridays, because he is here and they know he is here those days," Espinola said. "It's a predictable schedule."

Aiden Urena, the eighth grader, said Nick helps him when he's feeling stressed out. "I have a place to come when I'm mad," he said. "You can come here, hang with him. He's pretty calming. Even kids who don't like dogs like Nick. He's so calm."

Gillis hopes to have Hamilton certified as a therapy dog soon. Once certified, she expects to have him accompany her on visits across the district. On Wednesday, Espinola walked the halls with Nick. At every turn, he was surrounded by smiling, laughing students, looking to give him a quick pet or hug on their way to class.

Joseph Fruci, 13, an eighth grader, said "everyone loves him." "He's great for the school," Fruci said. "He helps every kid. The entire school loves Nick."

Please click here to access the Parent Language Assistance Line directions.

Aspen Student Portal

You can find an information sheet with directions for accessing the ASPEN Student Portal using the information below:

If you need support with Aspen logon please email


Still have a question?