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Anoka-Hennepin School District has become the latest to extend winter break due to the ongoing toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on staff and students, and other districts are considering such a move. 

The state's largest school district said this week it has modified winter break to "address staffing shortages and mental health needs for school communities," so it is adding two days onto winter break — Dec. 22 and Jan. 3. Students won't have school either day, while Jan. 3 will be a staff planning day (the district is closed Dec. 22).

Anoka-Hennepin Schools decided to do this to "address the impact of staffing shortages," noting it has more than 200 unfilled positions and a shortage of temporary help, which has impacted every position in the district, the district's website said. The plan was supported by the school board after the district reviewed staffing trends over the last few years and scrutinized trends the past two months.

"These changes will allow custodial, clerical, child nutrition, para-educator, transportation, counselors and social workers, administration, childcare, and instructional staff the opportunity to catch up on essential work to support our students," the district said on its website. "We’re taking action now to support student learning opportunities through the remainder of the year."

The district says these calendar modifications are in addition to "internal actions to streamline work and prioritize essential activities in our schools."

"These modifications are intended to support district operations and student learning while attempting to minimize the impacts on families," the district said. 

High school athletics and activities scheduled for Dec. 22 and Jan. 3 will continue as planned unless announced otherwise. 

Anoka-Hennepin is also looking at making other changes to the district calendar between February-May, but it has yet to finalize those plans.

St. Paul Public Schools earlier this week added two days onto winter break to help students, families and staff for pandemic stress. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Park school district last week decided to cancel classes Dec. 20-21 for the mental and physical health of all, while Rochester schools will give students four days off throughout the school year, the Pioneer Press said.

Related [Nov. 30]: St. Paul schools add 2 days to winter break due to pandemic stress

And Duluth Public Schools is considering extending winter break by two days due to staffing shortages and increased COVID-19 cases in the community. 

“With general staffing shortages, many unfilled positions, and a shortage of temporary help, every position in the district has been impacted. We need to ensure that we have sufficient custodial, clerical, child nutrition, paraprofessional, transportation, support, childcare, and instructional staff to safely serve our students,” Duluth Superintendent John Magas said in a statement to FOX 21.

"We also want to ensure student, staff, and family safety by providing COVID testing opportunities for students and staff as they return to school from our winter break. 

"With the recent increases in case numbers, as well as the unknowns related to the new variant, we are planning to offer testing through local public health and our community partners on Monday, Jan. 3.”

The district is proposing adding Dec. 22 and Jan. 3, 2022, onto winter break. Currently, winter break goes from Dec. 23-Dec. 31.

The school board will consider this at its meeting on Tuesday. 

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