LOOK HERE: 2 Lowcountry districts cancel school ahead of Wednesday teacher rally

Updated: Apr. 29, 2019 at 5:18 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Two Lowcountry school districts have announced plans to close schools Wednesday because of the number of teachers they anticipate will travel to Columbia for an education rally.

Dorchester County School District 2 and Colleton County School District say they will cancel classes.

Here is a full list of districts and the decisions they have made so far:

The Charleston County School District confirmed Monday afternoon it has no plans to cancel school on Wednesday.

“We expect a larger-than-normal number of teacher absences that day, and we are making preparations to cover classes,” district spokesman Andrew Pruitt said. “The District is in close contact with Kelly Services to arrange for additional substitutes. That will include all central-office staff in an effort to minimize disruptions to students’ instructional day. We understand teachers’ desire to advocate for improvements to our state’s educational system, and there is no reason to create divisions among those of us who share so many of the same goals. However, the top priority for CCSD is the well-being of our students, many of whom depend on us every school day for nutrition and support, in addition to their instructional needs.”

The Berkeley County School District officials said on Monday it has no plans to cancel school on Wednesday.

"Berkeley County School District is a values-driven organization that puts children first. This year our board provided a mid-year retroactive pay increase to teachers as a way of showing the quality of education children in Berkeley County receive is a priority. While the district supports its teachers and does its best to manage 47 schools in one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, it must not lose focus on what children need. We understand and value the passion of our educators. That passion, in all cases, begins with what children need most. For those teachers requesting to participate in the May 1 rally in Columbia, we have arranged substitutes or class coverage via employees of schools and our central services office. Our superintendent, his cabinet, and other central services staff stand ready to STAND IN classrooms to operate our schools safely on May 1. "

“Our principals, guidance counselors, coaches and many others are preparing to STAND IN classrooms to receive our children. We plan to proudly STAND IN for our children as needed as we realize the potential impact of this event, even just one day, could be tremendous for some of our families. With 20 Title I schools in Berkeley County, this school district will STAND IN as able to guarantee students who may only receive one meal a day are fed. We will STAND IN for families to help maintain the quality of life for a student who may be in a home with a single parent unable to take a day off from work without consequence. We will STAND IN and hope our employees and communities understand that by not closing, we ARE supporting our children AND the educators that serve them each day.”

Dorchester School District 2 announced they will cancel classes for Wednesday. DD2 officials said so many teachers will be absent next week that there will be a “critical staff shortage," and this decision was made with student safety in mind.

Dorchester County School District 4 says they plan to operate on a normal schedule on Wednesday.

Colleton County School District officials have decided to close all schools on Wednesday.

The district issued this statement on its website:

"As of April 29, a large number of our staff members have indicated they will use a day of leave Wednesday to attend SC for Ed’s “#ALLOutMay1” rally. This will leave all of our schools with a profound shortage of teachers that our current pool of trained substitutes cannot fill.

"Student safety is a high priority for our district. Because of the number of planned teacher absences, we believe that it will be difficult to provide a secure classroom environment for our students Wednesday. We have decided it would be prudent to close our schools.

“The Board of Trustees will discuss options for making up the day during a special meeting held Tuesday at 5 p.m.”

Earlier, district officials say they asked teachers who are planning to attend the rally to use “a special leave day,” district spokesman Sean Gruber said. District leaders were planning to meet Monday to look at numbers, he said.

The Georgetown County School District is monitoring the situation but plans to have schools remain open on a normal schedule Wednesday.

Williamsburg County have not yet responded for requests about their plans. Williamsburg, Georgetown and Colleton County schools are on spring break this week.

The Beaufort County School District planned to have schools remain open on a normal schedule Wednesday.

Palmetto Scholars Academy, a public charter school in North Charleston, announced it will close on Wednesday as well.

We will update the story as Lowcountry school districts or schools announce changes to their plans for Wednesday.

The online teacher group SC for Ed is is organizing what they are calling an “all out” on Wednesday, saying lawmakers have not done enough this year to help teachers after promising education reform. The group wants teachers to take the day off next Wednesday, wear red and march to the Statehouse.

"We want our state to understand that educators are tired of being ignored in our mission to improve the future for our children," a statement dated Sunday and posted to the group's Facebook page states.

The group says the state legislature ignored a 10 percent pay raise request agreed upon by three major teacher representative entities and discarded it in favor of a lesser raise that “does not meet the minimal goal of increasing the average teacher salary in South Carolina to the Southeast average.”

They also are upset the General Assembly has not passed proposals to reduce class sizes, guarantee teachers at least a short break without students and add social workers and counselors.

“For over a decade educators in this state have been continuously pushed aside and neglected as we give our best to the students we love so dearly including: the clothes off our backs, the money in our wallets, the love in our hearts, and the tears in our eyes,” the statement reads. “We all know that we cannot sufficiently educate our students without the resources our schools so desperately need, thus the legislature needs to appropriately fund education and pass effective educational policy.”

Teachers say substantial education reform is long overdue in South Carolina, and now they want a seat at the table to help lawmakers move things forward.

A similar rally is planned for North Carolina, where a number of the state’s larger school districts have canceled classes.

State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said Monday she would not support Wednesday’s rally and will instead serve as a substitute teacher in an absent teacher’s classroom.

“I became a teacher because I love and believe in education and the needs of my students always came first,” Spearman said. “As State Superintendent, my first responsibility and top priority is to the nearly 800,000 students of our state. That is why on May 1, I will not be joining those teachers who decide to walk out on their classrooms. Instead, I will be walking into the classroom of an absent teacher to serve as a substitute. I am not doing this to help facilitate the walkout, but rather to do all I can to ensure as many students as possible receive the instruction they deserve.”

South Carolina Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown declined to comment on which school Spearman will work in on Wednesday, saying only that it is a Midlands school.

“We don’t want this to be a media spectacle or disrupt the school in any way so we will not be releasing the name of the school until after the day is over on May 1,” Brown said.

Last week, a spokesman for Gov. Henry McMaster says the state’s top executive thinks the rally will send the wrong message to students and unnecessarily disrupt schools and the schedules of working parents.

Chester County was the first Palmetto State county to announce it was closing schools on the day of the rally.

Literature distributed by SC for Ed states the “All Out” is not a “walkout,” but is instead “a day of reflection and an opportunity for teachers, parents, students and community members to express their concern about the state of public education in South Carolina.”

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