Taking Mental Health Seriously:
Before the pandemic, we began to see more staff and students showing signs of poor mental health. Unfortunately, the worsening of mental health was exacerbated by the pandemic. We owe it to our students and staff to make mental health is a priority. Here is a plan to address it:
Give students mental health days! Regardless if a student has a mental illness, sometimes they need a break. While they are not physically sick enough to go to the doctor to get an excused day off, they should be allowed to take an excused day off to care for themselves.
Transition to a 4-day school week, but keep the 5-day work week for teachers. Many teachers are overwhelmed. They have to work before and after contracted hours, sometimes even on the weekends, to catch up on paperwork and assignments; This is unacceptable! Teachers are humans and deserve to have a healthy work-life balance. We can and must transition to a 4-day school week for students while allowing teachers to work all 5-days to get all their work done. Doing so would take a massive burden off teachers and students. To implement such a policy and still comply with Maryland law, we would have to tweak our school hours. While we are changing our hours, we should follow guidance from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics and start middle and high school no earlier than 8:30.
Hire more school psychologists and school social workers. This one speaks for itself. Giving students, with the consent of their parents, access to mental health guidance in schools would help students find healthy ways to deal with mental health problems that may arise. However, we would need to hire more mental health staff to do this. Ideally, we should attempt to reach the NASP ratio of 1 school psychologist for every 500 students and the NASW ratio of 1 school social worker for every 250 students. Therefore we would need around 30 school psychologists and 60 school social workers.