Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to close May 16 as teachers join rally in Raleigh

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Clayton M. Wilcox has designated May 16, the day of a statewide teacher rally planned in Raleigh, as an optional teacher workday for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The decision was made in collaboration with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and comes after a high number of teachers requested a personal day to travel to Raleigh to rally for better conditions on that day.

Dr. Wilcox released this statement regarding the decision.

"Teachers and educators in this district are taking their own personal-leave days to join their colleagues. As of late this afternoon, the current count of teacher and staff absences is approximately 2000, the majority of which do not have subs. It is important to note that this does not include normal sick days. We expect the number to increase as the day of the rally gets closer, and we don't have substitute-teacher capacity to cover all of the requests. I can't guarantee we'll be able to open all schools on May 16 with the staff needed to maintain student safety – so we've decided to make it an optional teacher workday."

Wilcox said that he respected the right of teachers to make their voices heard in Raleigh.

The rally is intended to call for increasing teacher pay and investment in public education, lowering staff ratios in schools and decreasing class sizes.

"To our teachers, I say this: I share your concerns. I hear your voices calling for change and I know that you lift your voices not only for your own benefit but because you care about students, their futures and our community," he said.

Dr. Wilcox said that the decision was not made lightly and that he recognizes it will have impact on employees, families and the community.

"About 3,000 employees, such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodial staff, are paid an hourly rate," he said. "In some circumstances, closing schools means they won't get paid for the day. We are exploring options to minimize the impact on our valued hourly employees."

Closing schools also affects working parents, he said, and the district will also seek to lighten the impact on them.

"CMS will be working with area partners to ease the burden of a closed-school day," he said. "We may not be able to fulfill all needs, but we will do our best. We recognize that this is not the same as a teacher workday placed on the calendar a year in advance, and we'll do what we can to help our families affected by this."

The rally and its message that education matters is a community-wide concern, he said.

"We have the chance to show our children, our students, our young people that we will stand up for them, that we care about their futures. I ask our teachers and staff, and our colleagues around the state, to represent our community and our children with dignity and respect. Our children are watching," Dr. Wilcox said.

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