New Half Days

On Wednesday, November 3rd, the Howard County Board of Education announced six extra half days for the 2021-2022 school year. The purpose of these half-days is to benefit the school community with a few mental health days as well as to help students catch up with assignments and to give teachers time to plan lessons. In an 8-0 vote, the school board voted that there will be a half-day once a month; they will be on December 15th, January 19th, February 16th, March 16th, April 27th, and May 18th.
The Student Member of the Board, Peter Banyas, was an important part of this decision. Banyas ran on a platform of prioritizing student mental health, which is a major part of the goal of these half days.
“The early dismissals will provide staff additional hours to complete professional tasks, tend to their personal well-being, and better balance the many demands that have been placed upon them during the pandemic,” Banyas said.
The change from virtual to in-person school has been a big adjustment for teachers and staff. Returning fully in person while still in the pandemic has caused the teachers to take on unprecedented responsibilities and added work.
“We’ve been getting a lot of reports from staff about their overwhelming workload,” Banyas said. “Due to the fact that we have students who need to quarantine, teachers have been uploading their materials to Canvas, offering virtual support sessions, and bringing students back up to speed after missed instruction. That takes a lot of time.”
Banyas also describes factors such as proctoring standardized testing, adapting to gaps in student knowledge in virtual learning, and covering for their colleagues as substitutes due to staff shortages that have led to a lack of time for teachers to plan and grade.
“We needed to find ways to offer time to balance those many responsibilities, and these extra half-days are a promising opportunity,” said Banyas.
As for students, these half days will give them time to catch up on their own assignments and get ahead on their studies.
“Teachers give so much homework and I feel like the half-days are really going to help me catch up,” freshman Deshna Dasari said.
The first quarter back from virtual and hybrid school has been a big adjustment; the hope of these new half days seems to be for students to take care of themselves and stay on top of their work.
“I think the half-days are going to give students a good break in the middle of the week and give them some time to rest and practice self-care,” junior Delaney Kruhm said.
In the 2020-2021 school year, students had every Wednesday off as an asynchronous workday, and many students are missing the break in the week and the flexible schedule.
“I wish that the half days were every Wednesday instead of just one Wednesday a month,” junior Cindy Leader said.
Providing students with time for themselves even if it is just once a month, will allow everyone some free time to use as they see fit.
“It’s nice to have half days that break up the standard 5-day week. Hopefully, this extra time will allow students to engage in fulfilling hobbies, de-stress, or clear their to-do list for some peace of mind,” Banyas said.
The decision to add these half days has been met with a lot of positive feedback from students and staff alike and will likely eliminate some stress for everyone.