How the significance of mental health has lead to more days off for staff and students

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Maren VanOsdol '22, Staff Writer

Going on two weeks since the Oxford school shooting, many have raised the question of are we doing enough to change this cycle. Some school districts around us have taken measures such as only allowing students to have clear backpacks in Lake Orion, as well as a week of remote school amidst the threats that appeared in the wake of Oxford. Other districts like Utica canceled several days of school in advance of winter break. But are these precautions healing the root of the problem or is it just the equivalent of putting a band-aid over a bullet wound?
Other school districts such as ours have taken less drastic measures by enhancing protocols already in place. Features such as the recently installed safe vestibule at the Fisher Rd. entrance and an increased number of police officers around the hallways. What else can be done on an individual level to benefit teacher and student safety and overall mental wellness, if possible?
Assistant Superintendent for Grosse Pointe Public Schools Dr.Roy Bishopexplains it this way: “I think whenever something happens, it changes your thinking. I think (Oxford) really hit us hard because it was close, and so when you think about that, it really goes into what can we continue to do better? What is currently working for us? And then garnering feedback with stakeholders about what improvements we need to make so we can continue to keep our schools safe.”
Bishop talked about engaging with the Chiefs of Police in all five Grosse Pointes as well as having an audit done by a security firm. “We’re really relying heavily on them to let us know what’s best, based upon the feedback that we’re giving them, and they are going to work for our community. I think every community is a little different, and we need to make sure that we are getting feedback from all of our stakeholders so that we can have a plan that really works for us within Grosse Pointe Public Schools.”
So is Grosse Pointe going to have more “mental health days” away from school or extended periods of remote learning? Bishop responded “We firmly believe that school be within a safe environment. And we want to be able to do that. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s important that we’re able to have our schools open to be able to best support our students. But we are definitely, definitely doing our best to keep our students safe and to keep them in face to face instruction.”
These measures still don’t change the fact that many students and teachers feel overstressed and overwhelmed. Having mental health days or more breaks doesn’t necessarily fix the root of the problem. With the shortage of teachers many teachers in need of a mental break are hesitant to take days off.
According to teacher Jacqueline Shelson, “I don’t think the school should take days off for mental health. I think that teachers shouldn’t be discouraged from taking their earned days off because of sub shortages. If teachers took the time off that they needed, they may not be so burned out.”