As NC schools prepare for teacher absences, Wake classes still a go

Posted May 4, 2018 7:14 a.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2018 5:19 p.m. EDT

— While Wake County district officials have not closed schools on May 16, many teachers are expected to join the planned protest on Raleigh's Halifax Mall to lobby lawmakers for better pay.

Paulette Leaven, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said she is expecting a big crowd.

"The teachers that go from Wake County will have to take a personal day and that costs them $50 for every personal day they take," she said.

So far, Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have decided to cancel classes on May 16. Officials said the day will be an optional teacher work day. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the second largest school district in the state followed suit.

As of Thursday, more than 100 Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers had requested the day off, according to a district spokesman.

The decision came a day after the Durham Board of Education voted 6-1 to close schools as more than 1,000 teachers requested the day off.

Kirsten Starr, a Wake County parent, is urging other parents to sponsor teachers who choose to attend the demonstration by paying the $50 for them.

"They seemed to be really happy to know the community supported them," Starr said.

Teachers plan to meet with House and Senate members to also push for school safety improvements and repairs to crumbling buildings.

"For us as educators, it's personal," said Bryan Proffitt, of the Durham Association of Educators. "We want (lawmakers) to look in our faces, and we want them to answer these questions. There's elections in November. We want to have folks going on record right now, in May — what is their position, and what are they going to do to make sure that our kids' lives get better."

Durham board members on Wednesday night weighed multiple options, including dismissing early so students would still be able to attend class and teachers would have the afternoon free to attend the rally. Ultimately, board members decided that it would be too difficult to operate with 1,028 teachers requesting off.

"The numbers just don't add up to me to where we could open May 16," school board member Xavier Cason said.

North Carolina Association of Educators' President Mark Jewell says the rally will also help their kids.

"People are rising up together to say, 'Fully fund our public schools,'" he said.

Jewell said buses are coming to Raleigh from Asheville, Charlotte, Wilmington, The Triad and from across the Triangle.

The North Carolina protests are the latest in a wave of teacher rallies sweeping the nation. Educators in West Virginia, Arizona and Colorado have all rallied for higher pay and better school funding.