Will schools close? Hundreds of NC teachers take May 16 off

Will schools close? Hundreds of NC teachers take May 16 off
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DURHAM, NC (WNCN) - Hundreds of teachers plan to be out of school May 16, but Durham school leaders did not decide what to do about classes during Thursday night's meeting.

Nearly 800 teachers plan to take a personal day in order to go to Raleigh to advocate for more money for education when state lawmakers reconvene. It's about 40 percent of the teachers in Durham Public Schools. During a meeting Thursday night, teachers informed school board members that, at some schools, nearly every teacher requested to take the day off.

"It's disgusting how much our children are dealing with dilapidated buildings and lack of school supplies, and we're talking about one day to make our voices heard, to stand as a strong united front," said Turquoise Lejeune Parker, a second-grade teacher at Eastway Elementary. Her husband is also a teacher.

"In our classrooms, we are paying for every single thing that we have almost," she said. "It takes a hit on our ability to build and grow for ourselves, maybe start a family one day."

Bryan Proffitt said the group doesn't have specific demands yet. He pointed to a recent report by the National Education Association that shows the state ranks 37th in teacher pay and 39th in per-pupil spending.

"The people who have been doing the damage to our schools and our kids for the last 10 years are gonna say that this is us being selfish. They're gonna say that this is us walking out on our kids. They've been punishing our kids for 10 years," he said.

In other states, teachers have left classrooms for several days to advocate for education funding. Proffitt said Durham teachers only plan to be out of class on May 16.

Proffitt acknowledged the hardship the situation could create for families. Some students rely on schools for meals. May 16 also falls during the testing period for Advanced Placement courses. Durham school administrators say 477 students are scheduled to take AP exams on May 16.

School board members asked about the ability to schedule a make-up day, and also raised concerns about hourly employees losing a day's pay.

Board members Matt Sears and Natalie Beyer urged the board to vote Thursday on whether classes would be canceled.

Ultimately, the board decided in a 5-2 vote to request administrators put a plan together and bring it back to the board at a meeting on May 2 at 5:30 p.m.

"Well, I think it's really important for us to consider the entirety of our student population," said board chairman Mike Lee.

Administrators said they've reached out to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction about potential repercussions for closing school on May 16 but have not heard back.