RCS launches first districtwide ‘Wellness Weekend’

Students, staff encouraged to relax, homework-free Feb. 17-20

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 30, 2018

  The Rochester Community Schools Parent Teacher Student Association recently sponsored a Stress Relief Expo at Rochester High School. The expo included therapy dogs, Zumba, yoga, a masseuse, adult coloring, a hot chocolate station, fidget gadgets and stress relief balls.

The Rochester Community Schools Parent Teacher Student Association recently sponsored a Stress Relief Expo at Rochester High School. The expo included therapy dogs, Zumba, yoga, a masseuse, adult coloring, a hot chocolate station, fidget gadgets and stress relief balls.

Photos provided by Rochester Community Schools

ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Rochester Community Schools district is giving its staff and students a dedicated homework-free weekend to unwind from the stress of school this February.

The districtwide “Wellness Weekend” is something new for Rochester Community Schools, according to Superintendent Robert Shaner, who said the initiative stemmed from a recent visit to a nearby school.

“We are always looking around to see what other school districts are doing that might be a positive change here in Rochester,” Shaner explained. “A couple of years ago, we took a visit to the International Academy and found out that their program of study, from time to time, is to give kids breaks on weekends — so there are no tests when they come back and there is no homework over the weekend. The staff and the students get to have a chance to relax and recharge.”

RCS administrators, in partnership with the Rochester Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association Council, decided to team up for their own Wellness Weekend to give district staff and students the opportunity to relax and unwind.

“There is a lot of pressure for the students and staff to perform at a very high level academically, and we want people to know that the social-emotional aspect of it is equally or more important,” Shaner explained.

The district’s first Wellness Weekend will be held during the extended Presidents Day holiday break, Feb. 17-20.

“It’s after exams, so it seemed like a natural place to take a break,” Shaner said. “People can take a breath and recharge and refresh and unwind.”

PTA Council President Barb Rill said that last year, the council formed a social and emotional wellness committee — consisting of administrators, high school and middle school counselors, local psychologists who are also district parents, and other district parents — to focus on mental health. Since then, the committee has held mindfulness activities for RCS staff. It has shown free films on anxiety for parents and students, and has even held stress-free-youth expos at the high school level.

“We are looking at this as a mental health break — a time to recharge for students — because a lot of the students are (having) a lot of anxiety, and the middle of the year is a really good time to give them that break,” Rill said. “And for the teachers as well, so that they can have a stress-free weekend and recharge with family.”

REA President Doug Hill said the association feels very strongly about the social-emotional wellness of students.

“What we are trying to really do with this is give everyone permission to press the pause button for an elongated weekend and just kind of re-center themselves and get focused on what is most important in our lives — which would be to spend some time with friends and family and relax, and then come back for the latter part of the school year, hopefully, in a better state of mind and be ready to go,” he said.