Teachers and students at Carlsbad Municipal Schools will get Friday, Nov. 12 off to focus on their mental health.
The district announced the free day would follow the Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday when no school will be held.
Carlsbad Municipal Schools (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Gerry Washburn said he hoped teachers and students would use the day to decompress from the tension of going to school during a pandemic. He said the number of COVID-19 cases, quarantines and teacher shortages led to a high level of stress among each group.
Washburn said he hopes students and staff get a chance to rest, play and enjoy their families during the extended weekend.
“I hope that they take advantage of the time to regroup so we can finish the first semester strong and move into the second semester,” Washburn said.
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Schools across the country, from North Carolina to Colorado, have offered days off to give students and staff time to focus on mental wellbeing. Illinois went a step further introducing legislation that would allow students to have up to five excused absences for mental health.
The Carlsbad School district will consider offering more days off in the future to help students while trying to avoid interruptions in education, Washburn said.
New Mexico has also made efforts to address mental health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state received $108 million in relief funds to help schools meet students’ academic, social, emotional and mental health needs, according to an announcement published by the PED in September.
Mental health issues have been a concern for Carlsbad’s youth that may have worsened by the pandemic.
In its 2019 student survey, the Carlsbad Community Anti-Drug and Gang Coalition found that 25.8% of middle school students and 31.3% high school students felt sad or hopeless in the last year; 16.5% of middle school students and 15.6% of high school students have seriously considered suicide; and 12.4% of middle school students and 10.9% high school students had attempted suicide within the last year.
In 2020 the coalition said it found concerning levels of mental distress and suicide ideation among students and are currently in the process of conducting the 2021 survey.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changes in routine, breaks in learning and healthcare, missed life events and losses in security and safety caused by the pandemic have affected many young people’s social, emotional and mental well-being.
CMS has resources in place to help students with mental health issues and can refer students to a counselor or social worker if needed.
The district made plans to allocate $240,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to provide students and staff with mental health services and conduct a comprehensive mental health assessment to improve social and emotional learning.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.