‘They’re overwhelmed’: Area school systems add mental health days for educators

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:08 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A Henrico mental health advocate supports the recent decision of some school systems to add mental health days into the school calendar especially after an experience on Friday hitting close to home.

“I got an emergency call from my son’s school saying he had a meltdown,” said Dr. LaKesha Roney, a mental health therapist.

It was a call the long-time therapist did not expect to receive right before her interview with NBC12 on the mental health effects of the pandemic in the school system.

However, Roney felt it was important to share her story in this context.

“I know he’s had a difficult time adjusting to this new year, this new school year,” she said.

The mom of the first-grader said her son’s teachers and counselors handled the situation well.

“My son was very emotional, very much in his feelings today,” she said. “That made me and his teacher be in our feelings as well. It was amazing that here I am, a mental health professional with all these degrees, trying to be there for my son emotionally, while the school counselor is patting my back.”

Roney knows there has been struggling on the school staff’s side this year as well.

“Within my practice, there are few clients that work in the education system,” she added. “That’s the feedback that I’ve been receiving, is that they’re overwhelmed… my mother is an educator for over 30 years and she’s expressing the same thing. They feel burnt out.”

It is why she supports the decision, albeit short notice, about Richmond Schools adding two mental health days in the first week of November.

This week the King and Queen County school board also voted to add wellness days into the school year.

Last night, the King and Queen School Board approved the recommendation for adding Wellness Days in our current...

Posted by King and Queen County Public Schools on Thursday, October 21, 2021

“As a school system, what are some things you can put in place; building in a couple extra days here and there or putting in some wellness for your staff members to retain them,” Roney said.

On Oct. 12, the Chesterfield County school board voted unanimously to make Oct. 22 a student holiday and full teacher workday.

“The board acknowledged the tremendous dedication and hard work teachers are putting in each day,” a school spokesperson said. “Because of the pandemic, teachers have taken on additional duties and continue to work through many challenges that make it difficult to spend the needed time on planning, grading and collaboration. Making Oct. 22 a full workday for teachers offers an opportunity to focus time on these critical tasks to ensure the best learning environment possible for our students.”

Hanover Schools allowed employees to work remotely on Oct. 11 to help with their planning time that may have been lost due to other pressing demands.

Both Henrico and Hanover Schools are looking at all options for ways to reduce stress and promote mental health in the school system for students and staff.

“All of us need community and connection at this time,” Roney said. “Everyone is stressed out and we all need support and sometimes we need a break as well.”

Richmond County Schools is giving everyone an additional five days off. Students and staff will now have the entire week off for Thanksgiving, Jan. 28, Feb. 14 and March 4.

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