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CMS to close May 16 for planned teachers’ march in Raleigh | Charlotte Observer

CMS to close May 16 for planned teachers’ march in Raleigh | Charlotte Observer

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will close schools on May 16, when teachers plan to march in Raleigh for better pay and working conditions.

Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school districts have told students not to report to school that day because too many teachers will be absent. Both districts will hold an optional teacher work day on May 16.

Nearby Gaston and Union county school districts said they had a manageable number of absences scheduled and would not close. As of Friday, only 19 of Gaston’s approximately 1,900 teachers had scheduled a leave day for May 16, spokesman Todd Hagans said.

Officials in Wake and Orange counties have also reported relatively small numbers of anticipated absences.

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The "March for Students and Rally for Respect" coincides with the opening of the North Carolina General Assembly — and is attracting national attention because it also coincides with #RedForEd teacher strikes and walkouts across the country. North Carolina’s teachers are seeking better pay and benefits, safer schools and more support staff.

Teacher networks on social media have been abuzz since news broke that more than 1,000 Durham teachers had requested personal leave days, forcing the district to close. Teachers from several districts said word was just starting to circulate in their schools, with efforts afoot to encourage people to schedule leave.

Some people who identified themselves as CMS teachers reported dozens of teachers at their schools were taking leave that day, while others worried that principals would try to discourage participation. North Carolina law allows teachers to take personal leave with five days’ notice, as long as a substitute is available and the teacher pays a $50 "required substitute deduction."

Meanwhile, some teachers worried about the effect that mass absences might have on students — especially those scheduled for Advanced Placement exams — and colleagues left behind.

Marquitta Mitchell, a West Mecklenburg High teacher, said some teachers filed for a personal leave day to log a strong show of support but actually plan to come for their students if school isn’t canceled, even if that means they forfeit the $50 substitute fee.

"We have plenty of teachers who are committed to the work and committed to the students, and they do this work for next to nothing, but they are underappreciated and undervalued," Mitchell said. "We are damned if we do, and our students are damned if we don’t."

A list posted on a closed Facebook group showed almost 1,400 Guilford teachers and almost 1,100 Wake teachers planning to attend. Behind those were Durham with just over 1,000 and CMS and Chapel Hill-Carrboro with more than 300.

CMS has more than 9,000 teachers.

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Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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