In December of the 2021-2022 school year, an idea was proposed to give students a mental health day off. So on December 15, 2021, once a week before the last day of school before winter break, all Howard County schools gave out a half day. This would continue for the remainder of 2021-22 school year, the half day always falling on the third Wednesday of the month.
But this year is different. The mental health half day of September was supposed to fall on the 21st, just last Wednesday. However, the 21st was a full day. This could lead many students to assume that the mental health half-days just weren’t going to happen. Yet, if you were to look at the HCPSS calendar for this year, the first of these half days will be December 14th.
To help clear up the confusion, the Bear Press asked Assistant Principal Dr. John DiFato to give an explanation as to how the half days will work. “They were so well received last year, that [the Board of Education] decided to continue them this year, and they begin in December”.
Dr. DiFato goes on to say that what it boils down to is that they will continue to happen every third Wednesday of the month, just like last year, only now they won’t happen unless there are no holidays or days off prior to it, mostly to fill a quota of days. “Per state law, you need a certain amount of days in school, so as you do a half day here and there, you’re getting dangerously close to being able to not satisfy those hours.”
This within itself is conflicting. It’s understandable that there are a specific number of hours that each school in Howard County has to fill, and with that, some luxuries afforded during the 2021-22 school year would not come. However, many students and even teachers relied on these half days as a way to decompress, finish work, or even just reflect on the week or quarters work. Condensing them to only months without off days preceding it seems like a mistake.
Freshmen Nico Salvia, Adanya Land, and Abdul Alvi all agreed that the half-days all helped with their mental health and helped them with school. “I think it’s really important because some people need a break from stress or school work,” Adanya commented.
But the half-days are not just used as a break from school. Many students use the half-days to catch up on missing school work. “I can work on my missing work on Wednesdays,” Abdul said when asked how the mental health days help him.
Regular school stressors with homework, classes, grading papers and teaching are enough to make anyone think a half-day like these is more than necessary, but then you throw other factors into the mix, like the responsibilities to family that could come with holidays or over the weekend, the half days become more and more of a necessity.
“I think it’s unfair because just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean they can cancel our half-days- Holidays are mandatory.” Nico commented when asked for his thoughts on the current state of the half days.
At the end of the day, just one day off in the middle of the week every now and then could go a long way to helping teachers and students get a break from school, and save them from the everyday stress that comes with school, that things like holidays or professional work days cannot give: A weekday where you don’t have to work as hard, or worry about what’s to come.