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Anoka-Hennepin extending winter break to address 'mental health needs'

The district is modifying two dates on the calendar, one of which will be used as a staff planning day.

ANOKA, Minn. — Editor's Note: The video above originally aired on KARE 11 on Nov. 30, 2021.

Anoka-Hennepin is the latest school district to modify its winter break schedule because of the stress caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Minnesota's largest school district announced it's extending the upcoming break to address staffing shortages and "mental health needs for school communities."

The district is modifying the following two days on its calendar:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021: No school for students, district closed
  • Monday, Jan. 3, 2022: No school for students, staff planning day

In a statement posted online, the district said the schedule changes will give "custodial, clerical, child nutrition, para-educator, transportation, counselors and social workers, administration, child care, and instructional staff the opportunity to catch up on essential work to support our students."

Additional dates in February and May could be switched from in-person to asynchronous learning or non-school days, or used for staff planning, according to the district.

Anoka-Hennepin said it's still operating with 200 unfilled positions nearly four months into the school year.

Several other districts in Minnesota have already taken similar steps to address both COVID-19 concerns and mental well being among students and staff.

On Nov. 29, Saint Paul Public Schools announced it's adding two more days to its winter break schedule to make it a full two weeks. The break will now begin on Dec. 20, with students returning to classes on Jan. 3, 2022.

“We need to acknowledge the stress and challenges both families and staff are facing due to the pandemic. We want to give our students, school staff and their families a longer break,” Superintendent Joe Gothard said in a statement. “We also encourage everyone to use this time to get vaccinated or get your booster shot if you are eligible.”

Shakopee Public Schools extended its Thanksgiving break by two days due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Scott County.

Rochester Public Schools interim superintendent Kent Pekel announced on Nov. 23 that students won't have school on four Wednesdays (Dec. 8, Feb. 9, April 20 and May 11) so that the district can focus on "staff planning to meet students needs during the pandemic and well-being activities." February 21 was also added as a well-being day for staff and students.