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Mansfield City Schools will dismiss students early for Thanksgiving Break, with classes cancelled Monday and Tuesday for Wellness Week.

MANSFIELD — Mansfield City Schools has tacked two days on to its Thanksgiving Break to give staff and students additional time to rest.

Schools will be closed Monday through Friday of Thanksgiving Week. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were already scheduled days off; the district will use calamity days for Monday and Tuesday.

Superintendent Stan Jefferson said the “Tyger Wellness Week” is meant to address the social and emotional well-being of staff and students amid a challenging school year.

“Students are being reintroduced back into the school setting, you add that with the shortage of substitute instructional staff, shortage of support staff -- it has stretched people very thin,” he explained. “Many of our staff, many of our nurses are exhausted.

”Our intention is that you take this time to enjoy your family, relax and unplug from much of the daily tasks that demand your attention so you can come back and focus on the three weeks ahead before Christmas break."

Sherry Vaught, a second grade teacher at Prospect Elementary School, said she greatly appreciated the extra personal time.

"It's going to help everybody take a break and just get some rest," she said. "My expectation is that's totally what every teacher is going to be doing is just resting."

Brad Strong, president of the Mansfield School Employees Association, suggested Wellness Week to administrators after observing the difficulties faced by his colleagues.

“The little things we can do like that are beneficial to get over the hump,” he said. “If it can get us through and get people some rest and time to recover, it’s worth it.”

Strong said it’s been an especially difficult year for educators and students. He said teachers call him in tears on a regular basis.

“They're worn out,” he said. “We've got a lot of people out on sick leave. COVID is still alive and well.

“They’re fussing that they’re ‘May tired,’” he added, referring to the exhaustion teachers feel at the end of the school year.

A nationwide shortage of substitute teachers adds to the strain educators are facing. Strong said teachers are often asked to cover for colleagues during their prep periods -- time that used to be available for grading, calling parents and getting caught up on non-instructional tasks.

“At the high school, they’re subbing every day. There’s no time to get ready, you just keep on going,” he said. “Retired teachers used to come in and sub. That’s not happening anymore. The substitutes are just not there.”

When there aren’t enough substitutes for younger grade levels, classrooms get divided up and sent in with other teachers. Strong said it's difficult to teach under those circumstances.

“You try to do something that’s educationally-based, but you have kids that you don’t even know their names,” he said.

Some students are still having trouble adjusting to the school environment. Some students have returned to in-person instruction for the first time since March 2020.

“My group is sixth graders, the last year they had a regular year of school was third grade,” Strong said. “Getting back into school and back into the routine this year, it’s been a struggle.

“We're having to retrain our kids on how to do school.”

Mansfield City Schools is one of many schools across Ohio to extend its Thanksgiving break. Others include Columbus City Schools, Urbana City Schools and the Springfield City School District.

Other schools offered wellness days earlier in the month.

After hearing multiple reports of burnout from teachers, principals and support staff, Supt. Jason Kamras of Richmond Public Schools in Virginia closed school for two days earlier this month.

Schools in Salem, Massachusetts had a wellness day on Nov. 12. Since the district was not in session on Veterans Day, it provided staff and students with a four-day weekend. The date was chosen by staff and families via a survey.

"We felt strongly that our staff and students needed an opportunity to pause and recharge given the feedback we received in regards to the transition back to full-time, in-person learning- wearing masks, COVID testing, vaccines, mental health needs, and academic recovery," Salem supt. Stephen Zrike told Richland Source.

"As a school district, it is important that we listen to what our staff and students are telling us and adjust our schedules and approaches accordingly."

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com