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.