Schools Increasingly Close for ‘Mental Health’ Days, Analysis Finds

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
reporter
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
November 14, 2021 Updated: November 15, 2021

Thousands of American schools have taken days off for various reasons related to mental health in what appears to be a new trend, according to an analysis by a data-crunching company Burbio.

The analysis has identified more than 2,500 schools that have canceled school in recent weeks, citing needs for “wellness, “reflection,” and “mental health” as well as countering “stress” and “burnout.”

“We started seeing mental health closures around November 1st,” explained Dennis Roche, Burbio’s co-founder, in a Nov. 14 email newsletter.

“These are distinct from disruptions caused by Covid-19 cases in school buildings, and from staffing issues that occur on very short notice generally as a result of Covid-19 cases.”

The mental health breaks are usually one or two days long, often around a holiday, the newsletter noted.

The company has so far identified “65 mental-health closure events affecting 2,535 schools,” Roche said, noting the frequency has increased in the past week from the prior week.

“Closures related to cases of Covid-19 tend to be for individual schools within a district while mental-health closures are often for entire districts which drives the number of schools closed considerably higher,” he said.

The closures seem to be concentrated in several states. More than half of those identified by Burbio are in North Carolina, where over 1,400 schools took such a break. In Virginia, 262 schools did so; in Colorado, 263 schools; in Ohio, 189 schools; in Oregon, 106 schools; and in Missouri, 75 schools.

In Forsyth County, North Carolina, the district announced a “Day of Kindness, Community, and Connection” for Nov. 12, connecting with Veterans Day for an extended weekend. Students and staff at its 81 schools were to take the day off “to focus on the mental health of students and staff by showing kindness, community, and connection,” according to a release by the education board.

The “assignment” for staff and students for that day was to “take care of themselves,” said the district’s Superintendent Tricia McManus, according to the release.

“It will be a day to focus on the mental health of students and staff by showing kindness, community, and connection,” it said.

Schools in Wake County, North Carolina, gave students the Friday off too, but required staff to work remotely and “use the time to reflect and prepare for the remainder of the semester,” the district said in a release.

Affton School District in Missouri announced it “will be forgiving three (3) days during the 2021-22 school year” to “better support the mental wellbeing of our employees and students.”

Ritenour school District in Missouri announced last month it would close on Nov. 1 for “a staff self-care day.”

“We will not need to make up this day later this year,” its Superintendent Chris Kilbride said in a release.

Public schools in Richmond, Virginia, were to close on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3,

“I made this decision because I think it’s essential for our employees’ mental health,” the district’s Superintendent Jason Kamras said in a last month’s newsletter.

Pubic schools in Alexandria, Virginia, will close for the entire Thanksgiving week.

“This decision was made upon careful consideration of the high levels of stress that our students, families and staff have expressed during the first few months of this school year,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said in a release.

Petr Svab
reporter
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.