Three Missouri school districts give teachers ‘mental health’ day off

Instead of teachers spending the day learning how to improve their instruction or teaching students, three school districts in Missouri gave teachers and all employees a day off so they can concentrate on their mental health and wellness.

Grenita Latahan, superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, gave all employees the day off on Friday, Oct. 22. She announced the cancellation of a professional development day for teachers and said the day would be for wellness and mental health for its 3,500 teachers and 24,000 students.

The Affton and Ritenour School Districts in St. Louis County are cancelling classes on Monday, Nov. 1, for the same reason. Chris Kilbride, superintendent of the Ritenour School District, called it a “self-care” day for the district. There are approximately 600 teachers and staff and 6,400 students in Ritenour and 2,600 students and 170 teachers in Affton.

“The challenges we have seen this school year have certainly been unprecedented and overwhelming,” Affton spokesperson Erica Chandler wrote in a statement last week. “We see our teachers and team members working harder than ever to support students and each other while also balancing increased expectations with less time during disruptions to our teaching and learning environment.”

Affton and Springfield leaders said feedback from teachers and staff led them to provide the day off.

In a statement on the Ritenour website, Kilbride said tensions are evident throughout the school district. In September, KSDK reported a Ritenour High School student was suspended for fighting and when he attempted to return to school the next day, administrators and a school resource officer found a gun and bullets in his backpack. Earlier this week, an “active shooter” threat spread on social media was exacerbated when a student popped a milk carton during a lunch period. Within minutes, approximately 15 police cars surrounded the school, classes were cancelled and students sent home.

“The ongoing challenges of this school year is resulting in unprecedented stress felt by students, families and every staff group in our organization,” Kilbride said in his Oct. 19 letter. “The levels of stress I’ve witnessed in our staff have been more concerning than at any other time in my 22 years in Ritenour.”

There will be no classes the following day in Ritenour as it’s a previously scheduled professional development day.

“We hope the four-day weekend will offer an opportunity for students and families to spend time resting and recharging for the upcoming weeks of school before Thanksgiving break,” Kilbride said.

During a recent Springfield school board meeting, deputy superintendent John Mulford said the district is lacking about 20 bus drivers and has 158 positions open, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Bus service was cancelled last week for about 1,500 Springfield students who live in close to their school.

Lathan urged employees to spend the day focusing on their individual needs.

“Take a walk,” Lathan said. “Take a nap. Read a book. Watch a movie or spend time catching up with those you love. Do whatever brings happiness and restores peace to your soul.”

Lathan emphasized no one is expected to be present at work on Oct. 22 and all will be compensated for the day.

“Time is precious,” Lathan said. “As we have considered ways to demonstrate our deep appreciation for your work, nothing seemed more valuable than the gift of time. We hope this announcement provides a boost to carry you through the remainder of the quarter.”

This article was originally posted on Three Missouri school districts give teachers ‘mental health’ day off

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