Citing teacher burnout, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) has decided to take an entire week off at the beginning of November.
During that week, students were already set to have three days off: November 2 for Election Day, November 4 for Diwali, a Hindu holiday and November 5 for parent/teacher conferences, according to a letter sent to the RPS community by Superintendent Jason Kamras.
But teachers are complaining of exhaustion and stress, apparently stemming from RPS’ COVID-19 protocols. Those protocols include forcing students to eat lunch inside their classrooms, which deprives teachers of “duty-free” lunches, or time off during the middle of the day.
The school has decided that it will cancel classes on November 1 and November 3, giving teachers and students an entire week off.
“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard directly from dozens of teachers, principals, and support staff about how stressful this year has been. Many have shared that they’re on the brink of burning out – even leaving – and it’s only October,” Kamras said in the letter.
The letter continued:
I recognize I’m giving our families very short notice of this calendar change and truly apologize for the inconvenience it will cause. After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I think it’s essential for our employees’ mental health. And because of their mental health, I worry about significant staff absences on November 1 and 3, which could make it very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy. Again, I sincerely apologize for the short notice and thank you in advance for your understanding.
Kamras said that students are stressed out too.
COVID-19, he claims, has exacerbated other “pandemics” they face, citing poverty, racism, and gun violence.
He also said that students are “exhibiting significant trauma from the past 20 months,” and that with approval from the school board, he intends to allocate $3 million of federal funding to mental health initiatives for those students.
The Virginia Star reached out to the school district for comment, asking how it intended to get through the school year if teachers continue to face such burnout.
That comment request was not immediately returned.
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