Wake schools think students and staff need a break. Nov. 12 will be ‘day of reflection’

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The Wake County school system has canceled classes on Nov. 12 to give students and school employees a breather during the stress they’re facing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wake County school board unanimously approved on Tuesday extending the Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday break by a day. Now Nov. 12 will be a non-instructional day for students and a remote work day for employees.

“The purpose of this request is to provide an extended Veterans Day break for those honoring our military families and a chance for employees to use a remote workday to help them reflect and prepare for the remainder of the semester,” Tamani Anderson Powell, the administrator in charge of Wake’s calendar committee, told the school board on Tuesday.

The day off affects all 160,000 students. Since track 3 students at year-round schools don’t have classes Nov. 12, they and their teachers will get their “day of reflection” on Nov. 15.

Under North Carolina law, public schools must be closed on Veterans Day, which is Thursday, Nov. 11. Nov. 12 is a Friday so families will have a four-day weekend now.

The Cumberland County school system also canceled classes on Nov. 12 , calling it a “Wellness Friday,” The Fayetteville Observer reported.

Wake cites staff vacancies

To justify the day off, Wake school administrators cited the stress the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the opening of the school year including:

”Continuing and new safety protocols to keep staff and students safe and maintain in-person instruction.”

”Management of school-based vacancies with diminished substitute teacher coverage, which has impacted school operations.”

”Management of current non-school based vacancies, which has impacted district operations.”

”Recognition of students, families, and staff at every grade level regarding the stress and anxiety of the first semester.”

Wake, like other school districts nationally, is suffering major staffing shortages that have led many employees to feel overworked as they cover for the vacancies.

“Given vacancies, given what our staff has been going through covering for those vacancies, having time for our children to spend a little more time with their families, having our staff have a moment to reflect and to plan is appropriate during this time,” said school board vice chairwoman Lindsay Mahaffey,

After the vote, several teachers went on social media to thank the school district for the schedule change. Some educators in other districts encouraged their school leaders to also make Nov. 12 a wellness day.

“Great news —Thank you WCPSS!” Green Level High School in Cary tweeted after the vote.

Wake facing ‘pandemic storm’

Wake won’t have to use a makeup day to replace Nov. 12. Instead Wake will use extra time built into the calendar, called banked instructional hours, to stay above the state’s minimum of 1,025 instructional hours each school year.

In the fall semester, Wake sometimes will use the banked time to replace days lost due to inclement weather such as hurricanes.

“We’re all thankful that we did not have a tropical storm,” said school board member Jim Martin. “But I think we did have a pandemic storm, so I think this is a very appropriate use of banked hours and will give time for reflection, time for some ... mental health breather. And so I actually think this is respecting the different kind of storm that we had.”

Short notice for parents

School board member Karen Carter voted for the schedule change, but she raised a concern about the lack of public notice to families. The change was added to the agenda on Tuesday after the meeting started and not when the agenda was posted on Friday.

Superintendent Cathy Moore said the district had consulted childcare providers, such as the YMCA of the Triangle and the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, ahead of time so those groups “are already moving on it.”

But some parents complained about how they’ll have to juggle their schedules now to find childcare on Nov. 12.

“I appreciate the gesture, but now working parents have another childcare day to figure out,” Sarah Coggins, a Wake parent, tweeted Tuesday. “Would be nice to either make these decisions at the start of the year or stick to current calendar.”

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