CMS students get extra day off next week, making Halloween 4-day weekend

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Students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools won’t have classes Monday — the day after Halloween — and teachers will get an extra work day for planning, evaluating instruction and a “heavy dose” of state-mandated professional development.

Board members voted 8-1 Tuesday to make Monday, Nov. 1, a teacher work day, canceling classes for students. The calendar change means students will have a four-day break, including Halloween weekend and a teacher work day that already was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2. Board member Sean Strain cast the lone dissenting vote.

“Our students have been feeling our teachers being burnt out and not being able to have professional development time,” student advisor Breana Fowler told the board. “I love the thought of a teacher work day ... because our students are feeling our teachers being overwhelmed, overworked.”

Teachers on the ‘front lines’ in Charlotte: We’re exhausted.

Specifically, district officials said the day will help elementary school teachers complete professional development.

In April 2021, the state legislature passed updated Read to Achieve legislation that includes a requirement for all pre K-5 teachers who teach literacy to complete LETRS professional development. The deadline to complete the training is August 2022.

Pre-K teachers must complete a one-year course totaling about 35 hours. For K-5 teachers, the entire professional development consists of eight units to be completed over the course of two years. LETRS indicates that the average amount of time to complete a unit is about 20 hours.

“Our teachers need a little bit of a breather, and they don’t get a lot of breathers,” school board member Margaret Marshall said, and called the amount of training the state has mandated “tremendous.”

CMS teacher Justin Parmenter said this school year’s “unprecedented staff shortages” mean that many teachers and other personnel must cover other classes or fill other needed roles during the time they normally would use for their regular job duties.

“Having an additional work day will allow much-needed time for staff to catch up on planning, grading and parent communication,” Parmenter told the Observer.

After-School Enrichment Programs will be open to serve families Nov. 1. Teacher assistants and other nine-month staff, such as bus drivers and child nutrition workers, will work that day unless they take annual leave.

“Our teachers and school staff have stepped up to keep students engaged and learning, even when their teachers are sick and there are no substitutes,” Board Chairperson Elyse Dashew said. “We are so grateful for their flexibility and strength in challenging circumstances, and we hope this will give them some breathing room.”

Along with giving its students Nov. 1 off, CMS also will adjust the 2021-22 calendar to include four mandatory early release days on Nov. 17, Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 30.

Other school districts in North Carolina have adjusted school calendars to address mental health needs among staff and students.

The Wake County school system is canceling classes on Nov. 12, and teachers will use it as a remote work day, The News & Observer reported last week.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will give students the entire week of Thanksgiving off to support students and staff members’ mental health and wellness, the district announced last week.

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