Charter schools cancel class to offer time to grieve, reflect after George Floyd’s killing

By Patrick Wall and Kalyn Belsha

In response to the anguish and outrage that have followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, at least eight charter school networks have taken the extraordinary step of canceling a day of class.

School leaders said they have encouraged class discussions about recent police violence against black people and the nationwide protests that erupted in response — but that students and staffers also need time to themselves to heal and reflect.

“You can’t expect people to witness such dehumanizing murders and the continued painful pattern and truth they represent, and then show up to work or school and go about business as usual,” said Dacia Toll, the president of Achievement First charter schools. “It is not possible, and it is not right.”

KIPP Minnesota appears to have been the first to cancel classes on Friday for its three schools in Minneapolis, where demonstrations have been among the most sustained and clashes with police the most intense.

They were followed this week by groups of KIPP schools in Newark, New York City, and Washington D.C.Achievement First, which has schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island; the Alliance College-Ready schools in the Los Angeles area; Uncommon Schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York; Ascend schools in New York City; Rocky Mountain Prep in Colorado; DC Prep in Washington, D.C.; and Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in Newark.

The networks said their school communities could use the day off for advocacy or reflection. Several said they specifically wanted to give black students and employees time to process recent events and care for themselves.

“It became abundantly clear that we — even myself, as a black woman — were grieving and struggling with the events that have been happening,” said Juliana Worrell, chief schools officer at Uncommon, which designated Monday a “mental health day” for its staffers and more than 20,000 students. “It was a difficult decision to close today, but it was the right decision.”

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