County Schools Modify Calendars, Programs to Promote Teacher Wellness

Counties across Maryland are adjusting school calendars to build in more time for teacher and staff wellness and breaks.

As teachers across the state and country continue to address growing demands from the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and challenges with hybrid models of teaching, Maryland school districts are answering calls for more time dedicated teacher wellness.

Counties across the state are modifying calendars and testing to address teacher burnout and wellness issues and to allow for more flexibility in testing schedules. A recent report from local CBS affiliate WJZ outlined how local school districts are addressing the issue:

Baltimore City Schools adopted the most-extensive changes to leave and programatic calendars:

  • November 5 Professional Development Day and Wellness Afternoon: “All school staff will have the afternoon of November 5, after professional development that morning, as a wellness afternoon. Staff can do something that will restore you or bring you joy – meditate, exercise, rest, meet a friend, see a healthcare provider, etc.”
  • Thanksgiving Break: “Currently, schools and offices are scheduled to be closed for Thanksgiving break on Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26. To give everyone some additional time off, we are asking the Board on November 9 to approve a change to the calendar to make Tuesday, November 23 an early release day for students and school-based staff and to close schools and offices on Wednesday, November 24. Once approved by the Board, we will communicate the schedule change with all staff and families.”
  • Three Additional Early Release Days for Students: “We are adding three additional early release days for students throughout the rest of the school year so that school staff will have additional teacher-directed time on those afternoons to plan and complete other tasks. One of the spring early release days will also be designated as a wellness afternoon for school staff. Specific dates for these early release days will be communicated along with the Thanksgiving break schedule changes once approved by the Board.”
  • SLOs and Student Learning Plans: “To give staff more time, the due date for teacher submission of SLOs has been delayed until November 12 and approval of teacher SLOs by school leaders has been delayed until December 3. In addition, the due date for Student Learning Plans has been delayed until December 23.”
  • Extended Learning and Tutoring: “While schools that are ready can start earlier, extended learning and tutoring programs are now not required to begin until January 10.”
  • Assessments and Core Content: “We will be reducing curriculum-based assessments, as well as content in some core content areas. The academics office and school leaders will communicate this information with school staff when available.”

Howard County Schools provided a statement to WJZ and details on new half-days added to the county’s school calendar:

  • “A modification passed unanimously and added six additional half days for students to provide school-based staff with time to address increased staff workload and to support employee well-being. On these days, there will not be any professional development or meetings planned. Staff will be able to use the time at their discretion for professional or personal needs. The dates of the half days are:
    • December 15, 2021
    • January 19, 2022
    • February 16, 2022
    • March 16, 2022
    • April 27, 2022
    • May 18, 2022.” 

Baltimore County Schools also provided a statement and said it is currently considering options:

  • “We have been looking and continue to look for ways to address those stresses and ease some of the strain our teachers experience, and we have taken some steps recently, such as an optional virtual work day last month. We are exploring a variety of measures, including early-release days and other workday and calendar adjustments, as well as making sure that teachers are aware of the wellness and other health-related resources available to them through their employment with BCPS.”

Read the full reporting from CBS’ local affiliate, WJZ.

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