CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Two teachers union leaders are asking the state board of education to give West Virginia public school personnel a needed mental health break this holiday season.

During Wednesday’s state board of education meeting, Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, asked the board to consider giving all school personnel and students a day off.

Lee says the stress of teaching during COVID-19 and the extra work staff and teachers are having to do because of employee shortages have hit them hard.

“Our educators are exhausted and our students are exhausted, it’s taken a mental strain on them, emotional mental toll, and I ask the board to be supportive of a mental health appreciation day for our educators and our students,” he said.

Lee says he got the idea after visiting Jefferson County and seeing how they are giving students a day off for teachers to catch and plan.

Although some schools across the country have made this into a regular day off, Lee says he’s just asking for one day off before the end of the year.

Fred Albert with the American Federation of Teachers agrees.

Albert says the caretakers need care themselves right now.

“Whatever our board could do to show leadership and to show that they really do care about our educators and the stress that they’ve been under, if that’s giving them an extra day on their winter break, not asking them to make it up, but just give it to them,” he said.

Albert says as public employees, school personnel don’t get any holiday bonuses, but this would be a way to give them a break.

In a statement to 13 News, a spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Education wrote:
“Supports for teachers are provided at the county level because they are more aware of the needs of their staff and the resources in their community. Some counties are using federal relief dollars to meet the mental health needs of teachers and staff.”

But Lee says educators are already burned out halfway into the school year.

“They’re covering classes, doing extra bus runs, cooks are working shorthanded.”