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GRPS announces two Covid Wellness Days

District cites continued pandemic pressures and staffing shortage

Grand Rapids Joining a growing list of school districts,  Grand Rapids Public Schools is implementing previously unscheduled wellness days to give teachers and staff a break in the midst of a calendar that continues to be impacted by the pandemic.

The district announced this week through emailed correspondence that it will be closed on Fridays, Dec. 3 and 10.

John Helmholdt, district spokesperson, said the days off are needed for several reasons, including the pressures of the past year-and-a-half caused by COVID-19 and the ongoing shortage of teachers in Michigan.

“This has been an exceptionally challenging time, particularly for students, families, teachers, school leaders and support staff,” he said. “This school year has been particularly trying as we are facing an historic teacher and support staff shortage coupled with the continued global pandemic.”

Helmholdt said the toll on the social and emotional health and mental wellness of GRPS students and staff continues to be significant.

‘This school year has been particularly trying as we are facing an historic teacher and support staff shortage coupled with the continued global pandemic.’

– John Helmholdt, GRPS spokesperson

“This is why we have scheduled two wellness days in December to provide our students and staff with days off for their own wellness,” he said. “This will not add extra days to the end of the school year.”

In West Michigan, Muskegon Public Schools recently announced that it will close for two extra days prior to Thanksgiving for the same reasons.

Superintendent Matthew Cortez pointed to higher stress and anxiety levels and symptomatic behaviors and rising absenteeism rates in a letter to his district’s stakeholders in adding  Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 22-23 as days off.

He added: “The adjustment back to a learning environment after 18 months virtually has proven to be a stressful and anxious time for many of us. While this couple of days of time is not a solution, it is a step in the right direction toward encouraging relief and self-care that we all need to practice.”

Other states are taking similar actions. In Lansing, Kansas, the Lansing Unified School District recently announced it would take the entire week of Thanksgiving off to give its teachers and staff time to rest and recharge as a result of Covid-related pressures.

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio

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