Some Minnesota school districts extend winter break due to pandemic exhaustion

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School districts around Minnesota are opting to extend winter breaks. For some, it’s due to the stress of the pandemic.

"I’m pretty excited that we get a longer break," said 12-year-old Lyriq Harrison, a seventh grader at Osseo Middle School. "Stuff at the end of the trimester is kind of stressful, and all that’s been going on at school, it’s better for us to just get a break, just have some time to relax."

Osseo Area Schools made a calendar change giving students an extra two days out of the classroom before Christmas.

"I think it’s good for them to have more personal time with what they went through last year, they still need some personal time, so I think that will be good," Lyriq’s grandmother said.

The district says an extended winter break will give staff and families more time to reenergize. St. Paul Public Schools just announced a similar decision.

"The changes are being made in an effort to acknowledge the stress and challenges both families and staff are facing due to the pandemic," SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard said.

He says part of the exhaustion has to do with staffing shortages.

"I want to share with you, the board and our community that on one of the busiest days on a Friday, we had 300 absences in our district. That’s licensed teacher absences," Gothard said.

Changes like these are being discussed in school districts across the state.

"Our school leaders are almost in a perpetual state of having to do contingency planning. It is unprecedented — we use that word a lot — but it truly is," said Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District plans to provide more teacher support by reducing meetings and changing professional development days through the end of the school year. However, students have two whole weeks off for winter break in Minneapolis, so no changes are anticipated.

"I think it will be awesome. They can spend more time with mom and grandparents," said one mother about the extended winter break.

Although not everyone feels that way, and they took to social media one stating, "Changing a school calendar with four weeks notice is a horrible, horrible decision."

Another concern is it will "cause huge financial and work-related issues for hundreds of families that don’t have childcare."

In addition to the winter break changes, some school districts are surveying their families and staff right now to determine if digital learning days or additional time off could be helpful throughout the rest of the school year.