Richmond Schools Closing 2 Extra Days For Mental Health

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Richmond’s schools will close for the entire first week of November, including two days “in the interest” of workers’ mental health, the superintendent announced.

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras announced the change Wednesday, noting the stress schools employees are under, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

“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,” Kamras said in a letter. “Many have shared that they’re on the brink of burning out — even leaving — and it’s only October."

Richmond schools were already set to be closed three days that week, for Election Day, Diwali and parent-teacher conferences. Now schools will also close the other two days that week.

“After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I think it’s essential for our employees’ mental health,” Kamras said, acknowledging the short notice for families. “And because of their mental health, I worry about significant staff absences on (Nov. 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.”

Kamras also announced changes to address three major stressors: Doing too much, not enough time and students “exhibiting significant trauma from the past 20 months.”

There will be no new programs, initiatives or curricula and the system is adding 100 lunch monitors to help free up teachers at lunch time, Kamras said. He also authorized principles to make changes needed to “hold independent teacher planning time more sacred.” With the school board’s consent, Kamras said he intends to reallocate $3 million of federal relief funding to boost student mental health support.