Johnston County latest school district to set aside 'mental health' days for students, teachers

Posted October 25, 2021 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2021 4:25 p.m. EDT

— Several school districts in central North Carolina are setting aside time for students and teachers to take a "mental health" break.

Johnston County Schools announced that Friday, Nov. 12, will be a wellness day for students and staff. Then, Monday, Nov. 22, will be an optional workday and Tuesday, Nov. 23, will again be a wellness day for students and staff.

"We know there is a mental health crisis in our schools, and it’s being felt by our students and our teachers," said Cassie Ford, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA Council.

Officials with the Wake County Public School System, Durham Public Schools and Cumberland County Schools decided to designate Nov. 12 as a "mental health" day for students and staff. Employees are still asked by the district to work from home on that day.

Educators with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district are taking the mental health days a step further, and starting next year, hope to give students a break two times a week. On “Mindful Mondays” and “Wellness Wednesdays," students would still come to school, but they would have a more relaxed schedule to reduce stress and anxiety.

Students will also get an extended Thanksgiving break and an additional day off in February, starting in 2022-23, officials said.

Dr. Amy Ursano, a child psychiatrist with UNC Health, said that the mental health days could add stress on parents due to child care concerns. She encourages those families to take the breaks together.

"We’ll be very generous to each other if we can just simply acknowledge that we don’t always know what we need to do, but we’re doing it together, and we’ll figure it out," Ursano said. "I think those are gigantic messages for our children."

One mom, Megan Stauffer, has two children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district. She said that she is glad that the school is offering both students and their teachers a break.

"We can use these days to our advantage, to just recoup strength and then come back to school ready to go," she said.

The school system said it's working with the YMCA to help give parents child care options on these new breaks.

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