Pitt County Schools will be closed for students on May 16 due to the March for Students and Rally for Respect rally going on in Raleigh.
A number of Pitt County teachers and teacher assistants announced Tuesday they would attend the rally, which led to Pitt County Schools’ decision. The North Carolina Association of Educators is planning the rally.
Pitt County Schools officials explained the decision, saying they decided to close schools due to the high volume of absences anticipated.
“Our number one priority in Pitt County Schools is student safety,” says Mildred Council, Pitt County Board of Education chair. “We must ensure that we have sufficient staffing in order to operate our schools in a safe and orderly manner. Otherwise, we have no choice but to close school, as is the case for May 16.”
Superintendent Ethan Lenker said they support the teachers.
“We realize that canceling school places a tremendous burden on parents, local businesses, and the community at large,” says Lenker. “This is a decision that we do not take lightly. However, Pitt County Schools supports our teachers fully and asks that our community do the same. We want to be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest into the teaching profession because our children deserve nothing less. Hopefully, our teachers’ voices will be heard and lead to meaningful change.”
Pitt County Association of Educators president Lauren Piner explained why teachers are going to the rally.
It’s “really important to make sure the teachers are being unified, speaking with one voice, to make sure that the focus is on the students,” said Piner. “It’s about so much more than just teacher pay, principal pay.”
There have been similar rallies in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
The May 16 rally aims to address issues like increased per student allotment, adequate pay for teachers with advanced degrees and class size caps.
“We were a beacon in the south for public schools,” said Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “We were near the national average an educator pay, and we were making the right investments. But the reality today is darkly different.”
Piner said some text books are so old former President Obama is referred to as Senator Obama in history books.
“Students are suffering; our communities are suffering, and we need to make sure that our schools are well-funded, they’re all staffed, and that we were attracting the best and the brightest to the profession,” Piner said.
Wake County and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school systems will also be closing their schools that day.
The Pitt County Early College High School will hold classes on their normal operating schedule for students on May 16, as they are holding exams that week and have a different calendar than the rest of Pitt County Schools.