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San Diego Unified scraps plan for mental health holiday

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

A proposed mental health day caused a stir in the San Diego Unified School District.

Updated: November 5, 2021 at 8:16 PM PDT
Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson sent parents an email on Friday night stating the following:

After careful consideration, we have decided to keep our classrooms open next Friday.
All students will be welcome at school on November 12.
We will continue to offer students the chance to use that day to rest and recharge. Families that choose to keep their students out of school for a mental health day on November 12 will have their absence marked as “excused.”

Original Story:

San Diego Unified School District sent an email to parents on Wednesday informing them about a proposed “mental health day” on Nov. 12, 2021, the day after Veterans Day.

Because the Veterans Day holiday falls on Thursday, this would give children a four-day weekend.

The email said the district wanted to give families recovery time because they heard from parents and students that their “mental health has suffered” because of the pandemic. They also urged parents to take that day to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. The district's deadline for a first dose is Nov. 29.

While some parents were happy to get an extended holiday, others like Elizabeth McCann said this last-minute change throws a wrench into already stressful schedules, and this leaves parents who don’t get Veterans Day off trying to find child care for two days instead of one.

"Our work schedules and the school schedules are very intertwined and very much rely on each other," McCann said. "You need more notice. You can’t spring something like this on us.”

She added she is very in favor of mental health days.

"I think few people deserve it right now more than teachers," McCann said. "I just think the way this was rolled out was tone-deaf to what parents and families are also going through right now."

While the email also stated child care options and reduced meal services were also being recommended, McCann said she doesn’t know if these would be for parents who already are enrolled in extended after-school care, or if it would be available to all parents who need support.

McCann is also concerned about a post circulating on social media, reportedly from a district staff member. It claims the real reason for the day off was because of a teacher shortage.

KPBS has not been able to confirm if that post was legitimate. McCann said if that was the case, the district should be honest.

“It is now sounding like this wasn’t really a mental health day, it was really due to a staff shortage, so it was dishonest," she said. "And after a year and a half of dealing with the ups and downs of school closures and everything, I think most parents ... we really wish people would just level with us and be honest right now."

Interim Superintendent Lamont Jackson said this proposed day off has nothing to do with staffing shortages. He said this is merely a proposed mental health day they decided to add because of a lot of feedback from parents and students about the struggles they’ve been having with mental health.

“There’s been a great deal of expression of wellness. We felt like, I felt like it was a good idea to consider over a weekend, long weekend, allowing folks to take the time, spend time with family,” said Jackson, adding that he’s grateful for all feedback from families.

Jackson said this is merely a proposal that still needs approval from the school board, and if issues like childcare and meals can’t be worked out they will scrap the proposal altogether.

The proposal was expected to go onto the agenda for Tuesday's board meeting, but as of publication time, that agenda has not been posted.