CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be closed May 16 as a majority of teachers plan to attend a rally in Raleigh,NC advocating for better pay, officials said.
CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said during a press conference Friday that there were not enough substitutes to cover those teachers who planned to attend the Raleigh rally. Wilcox said May 16 would be an optional work day for teachers and that all schools would be closed to students.
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.
The "March for Students and Rally for Respect" follows similar demonstrations and strikes in Arizona, West Virginia, and Kentucky where teachers are requesting better pay and benefits.
North Carolina is a right-to-work state where teacher strikes are illegal. However, state law gives teachers the right to take personal leave with at least five days' advance notice — as long as a substitute is available and the teacher pays a $50 "required substitute deduction."
Wilcox emphasized that the decision to cancel classes was not made lightly and he recognized that it will have an 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.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced the following adjustments related to the May 16 optional teacher workday:
1. Advanced Placement (AP) testing – AP tests will not take place on May 16. AP tests now scheduled for May 16 will be rescheduled to be administered before Friday, May 25 on make-up days offered by College Board. CMS principals will work with students and families on re-scheduling of specific AP tests. The College Board is waiving AP test make-up fees and assures families and students that if students complete make-up exams on May 23 and 25 for the tests scheduled on May 16, scores will be returned on the timeline of the originally scheduled tests. Due to earlier graduation dates for CMS Early and Middle Colleges, AP testing provisions for early and middle school college students are still being evaluated.
2. After School Enrichment Programs (ASEP) - ASEP will run from 6:45 am until 6:00 pm for registered ASEP students.
3. Athletics - Middle School athletic contests originally scheduled on May 16 will be moved to May 15. High school teams are in NCHSAA play-offs and high school games may be played on a teacher workday.
4. Field trips – field trips scheduled for May 16 will be rescheduled for another date within the 2017-2018 school year or will be cancelled. The official last date for field trips using CMS buses is May 31, 2018. Trip must be in Transportation's approval queue by May 17th (two weeks prior to trip date.) Trips should be requested in Educational Journey by May 10th to allow for Principal and Community Superintendent approvals. For field trip related questions, please contact your area transportation office. Contact info is listed on the CMS Intranet under Departments/Transportation.
5. Graduations – based on current information, all graduations will stay on schedule as planned for all schools across the district. No changes.
6. Hourly employees – the district seeks to support 9 and 10 month hourly employees and is mindful of the potential impact of an optional teacher workday on over 3,000 employees in the district. On May 16, 9 and 10 month hourly workers can choose from three options for the workday, including: a) opt for annual leave; b) opt to take a day without pay; c) report for work for training and professional development opportunities. Departmental leaders will provide details for plans on May 16 to employees. CMS teacher assistants can take an annual leave day, a day without pay or report to work.
7. IB testing – unlike provisions for AP tests, there are no available expanded or make-up days for IB testing. Therefore, IB testing will take place as scheduled on May 16. Principals and staff will work with students and families to schedule and discuss transportation options to ensure students can take IB tests on May 16.
8. May 16 attendance waiver for students – Superintendent Wilcox has waived attendance requirements on May 16 for all students. No make-up day is needed or will be scheduled.
9. Salute to Service – CMS will re-schedule planned “Salute to Service” retirement celebrations for May 16 and will reach out to retirees being honored and their families with a re-scheduled date.