AOS 94 adjusts winter break to address teacher burnout

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 9:26 PM EST
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DEXTER, Maine (WABI) - As winter break approaches, many teachers across the nation are ready for time off.

Some schools in Maine have already taken the initiative for teachers battling burnout by extending the holiday break.

”We need to give them a break, we need to support them, said President Maine Education Association Grace Leavitt. “We need to show how much they are appreciated for everything that they’re managing to do.”

The stress due to the pandemic has taken a toll on Maine’s teachers. Having to deal with COVID outbreaks, quarantining, staffing shortages, and contact tracing, teachers are overwhelmed. Schools in AOS 94 in Dexter are combatting the stress by adding extra days off to winter break.

“Some of that stress level that we usually don’t see until the end of March or April. We’re seeing now, said Superintendent of AOS 94 Kevin Jordan. “Fortunately, we proposed to the school board that we extend the holiday vacation by three days, and the school board agreed with us that, you know, it was a good idea, certainly to help staff with burnout issues and to also be able to give the schools a thorough cleaning.”

Safety is a top priority right now, however mask mandates are being decided by each district which has caused backlash from parents at school board meetings. Grace Leavitt, President of the Maine Education Association, says the demoralizing behavior from the meetings has left educators feeling defeated.

“Educators feel very underappreciated for all that they’ve continued to do for two years now,” said Leavitt. “And on top of that, then we see the kinds of behaviors that go on at school board meetings, where it’s just demoralizing to know that you’re working on well beyond what anyone could ever have expected to have to do.”

Parents and staff have been reacting well to the extended winter break. AOS 94 Superintendent Kevin Jordan says this was a tough decision to make especially for parents with younger children who will now have to find additional daycare.

“We think it’s the best thing for students and staff at this point,” said Jordan. “And we were able to give them plenty of notice. So hopefully, we haven’t created any significant issues by altering the school calendar.”

After another year of battling the many challenges the pandemic has brought upon schools, Jordan says the administration wants their staff to know their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“We’ve put them in some really difficult positions this year. From teaching students that are in front of them, to also teaching students through zoom who are at home, who are quarantining or who are positive, not knowing necessarily who’s going to be in what situation each day. Teachers have had to be incredibly flexible with their lesson plans,” said Jordan. “Certainly much more than they have in the past. And they’ve done a wonderful job.”

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