Pitt County Schools closing May 1st for teacher rally

PITT COUNTY, NC (WITN) Pitt County School District officials say schools will be closed on May 1st as educators across North Carolina gather to attend a rally at the General Assembly in Raleigh.

The district says, "We are aware that NC teachers, the backbone of our system, are rallying to improve pay for all school employees, provide more school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses and other professionals to meet national
standards, expand Medicaid for students and families, reinstate state retiree health benefits, and restore advanced degree pay. We are also aware that our parents and businesses are greatly impacted by unplanned changes in the school calendar.
We have been monitoring the number of leave requests in direct comparison to the number of substitutes we have available to cover teacher absences and to provide a safe environment for our students. Within the last 48 hours, the number of leave requests has reached a critical level. After much consideration, we have determined that due to a severe lack of adequate supervision, we will not be able to operate schools safely on May 1st. Therefore, Pitt County Schools will be closed for students attending all traditional schools. Non-traditional schools operating on a college schedule and on a college campus will remain open for students on May 1st."

"This has been a difficult decision to make," says Superintendent Ethan Lenker. "Teachers are rallying for the very things we've been lobbying for as well. We value our educators and the issues they're fighting for. We also have an obligation to our parents to provide excellent instruction to students and timely communication. Our business partners are tremendous supporters of our school system, and I know they are deeply affected when schools close, too."

School Board Chair Anna Barrett Smith adds, "We deeply regret the strain that unexpectedly closing schools creates. However, student and staff safety have to be our top priority, and we are not confident that we can operate safely on May 1st with the number of anticipated teacher absences."

May 1st will be an optional teacher workday for PCS staff, and all athletic events are still scheduled to be played.

School officials say students will not have to make up the day missed, as the Pitt County Schools calendar provides more classroom instructional time than is required by the state of North Carolina.