Do NJ schools need new built-in mental health breaks from COVID?
There’s been a lot of discussion over the past couple of weeks in New Jersey about how students, teachers, administrators, support staff, school bus drivers and nurses are all exhausted because of ongoing COVID safety requirements and controversies.
Sean Spiller, the president of the New Jersey Education Association, said the COVID protocols at schools, combined with ongoing issues like travel concerns, not being able to get together with family and friends outside of school has been stressful and has absolutely resulted in widespread fatigue.
So what’s the best way to try and begin to address the problem and offer some relief?
Spiller said at this point “we all need to look at ways that we can allow people just a moment or two in those busy days to check in, to get a hold of one’s self in terms of mentally.”
He said in practical terms this may mean giving everybody at school some built-in breaks.
He also said we need to realize this isn’t going to be a one-year fix.
“This is going to take years: the pandemic has done serious harm in terms of the stress that’s been put on all of us and we’re not going to just do a couple of things and we’re done,” said Spiller.
He noted Wall Street firms are closely examining the issue of mental health, giving employees downtime to recharge, because “they know what this means to the bottom line.”
“We have to start looking at what are some of the other pieces that add stressers, especially during these times. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of paperwork that educators have to fill out," he said. "Do we really need to keep piling these things on and have people do this work when it really has minimal impact in terms of student impact and certainly just adds more stress?”
Gov. Phil Murphy says this is a serious problem.
“People are spread thin, and not just educators — this is staff, school bus drivers," he said."
The governor said last week in order to try and get more people to become teachers he’s reminding everybody all the time, “this is a great career that pays well with great benefits.”
Murphy said he is not in favor of allowing teachers from other states to be brought in as substitutes, which would go against the current regulation requiring teachers to live in the Garden State.
Spiller said bringing in teachers from other states to lend a hand would be problematic because neighboring states are having the same problem with what has been termed as “June fatigue” at the beginning of the school year.