A Day Without Women prompts school system to keep kids home

Citing a lack of staff, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools switched Wednesday to an optional teacher workday

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
A school bus arrives at Glenwood Elementary School on March 7. Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools will be closed to students on March 8.

CHAPEL HILL — Less than three weeks after people skipped work for “A Day Without Immigrants” to illustrate the contributions of undocumented workers, women are staging a similar protest to raise awareness of women’s rights.For International Women’s Day on Wednesday, people across the country — and even internationally — are having “A Day Without Women” to highlight the impact women have on society.The movement even led two school systems — including one in North Carolina — to alter their schedule in anticipation of mass absences from teachers and staff.Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools opted to make Wednesday an optional teacher workday rather than face being short staffed. The 21-school system estimated hundreds of staff absences.”In recent weeks, I started hearing from staff members who indicated they will not be coming to work on Wednesday, March 8,” the school system posted on its website. “As we get closer to that date, I have heard from more and more staff that they will also be absent. I asked our school principals and central office department heads to survey staff to find out how many absences would occur.”The results came back, and the number was significant,” the statement added. “In fact, it is my determination that we will not have enough staff to safely run our school district.”Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) canceled a planned delayed opening for the following day, March 9, to compensate for the missed day Wednesday.Joining CHCCS in keeping children home Wednesday were some schools in New York City and the Alexandria, Va., school system.”The decision is based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high staff absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction,” Alexandria Superintendent of Schools Alvin Crawley said in an announcement. Alexandria serves more than 15,000 students.While making the day optional alleviated CHCCS’ staffing concerns, it did put a burden on parents who needed to find midweek child care for their children. There are approximately 12,000 students in CHCCS schools.Seeing a need, Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, a 38-acre educational farm and ecological learning center eight miles west of Chapel Hill, decided to offer child care for the day.”When we heard about the school changing the school date to an optional teacher workday, we realized that their might be some families who needed a safe, fun place for their children, and we decided to create that,” Megan Toben, co-founder and executive director of Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, said. “It’s been kind of a spontaneous offering, last minute, so we’re still kind of unsure what to expect. “But we’ve had lots of wonderful community support in terms of adult volunteers and teen volunteers who want to help make it a really special day and a celebration of women.”Toben said while she appreciates the efforts of “A Day Without Women,” she is more focused on making the day camp about International Women’s Day.”I really understand and appreciate their intention to bring awareness to the contributions that women make in our community and our society,” Toben said. “Our approach is more of a celebration of the International Women’s Day and an appreciation of women. Some of the activities that we have planned are making homemade thank-you cards for the women in our lives and gathering flower bouquets for the women we love.”The one-day offering, called Women’s Day Kids Camp, is from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and cost $60 for one children or $100 for two.On the CHCCS Facebook page, many parents and even high school students are offering to assist those in need of child care, but others are disappointed in the teachers who prompted the optional workday.”You are not doing your job for the girls in your district by this asinine attempt at notoriety,” one commenter, Rebecca Hatcher, posted. “Get off the picket line and do what you are supposed to be doing for women — TEACH.”The Chapel Hill PTA Council and the North Carolina Association of Educators did not respond to requests for an interview.Reuters contributed to this story