Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland announced Tuesday night that schools would be closed on Wednesday. Approximately 1,700 teachers, and 30 percent of the transportation staff, requested leave to observe “A Day Without a Woman” a strike created to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Women’s March organizers have encouraged women to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor March 8 and for supporters of the movement to only spend money at small, women- and minority-owned businesses.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters in the U.S. and abroad participated in women’s marches in opposition to the policies of President Donald Trump on January 21.
“We want this to be a day where women feel empowered to take a stance on their value in the workplace and the world beyond,” said Cassady Fendlay, a national spokesperson with theWomen’s March.
Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) posted the notice on Facebook, which states:
“We cannot transport students, and provide safe, productive learning environments without adequate staff. As a result, schools will be closed tomorrow for students. We apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause to families.”
Kevin M. Maxwell, CEO of PGCPS, said that the closure is not political.
“Based on our policies, PGCPS and the Prince George’s County Board of Education have no political stance on ‘A Day Without a Woman.’ Schools will open Thursday, March 9 on a normal schedule,” Maxwell said.
PGCPS is the second-largest system in Maryland, with more than 131,000 students and over 200 schools and centers.
Students enrolled in the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) district in Virginia also have the day off, as more than 300 staff members requested leave.
The ACPS said in a statement on Monday that, “given the unusually high number of requests” for leave, a decision was made to close the schools for the day. However, some school programs will remain available.
The statement also said, in part:
“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. It is not based on a political stance or position.”
The Women’s March announced the agenda for its planned strike on March 8, “a day where women feel empowered to take a stance on their value in the workplace,” said Cassady Fendlay, a national spokesperson.
“Students will not be required to make up this instructional day. As this winter has not seen the usual snow accumulation across the region, we have sufficient days in the calendar to close on Wednesday without adversely affecting the number of teaching days required by the state.
“We understand that when schools close there is an impact on families, who may have to find unanticipated childcare. We apologize for this unforeseen burden on parents and thank you for your patience and understanding.”
Approximately 15,200 students are enrolled in 16 schools within in the ACPS system.
Jim Causby, superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City public school system, announced on Thursday that he decided to cancel classes on Wednesday, making it a Teacher Work Day.
“In recent weeks, I started hearing from staff members who indicated they will not be coming to work on Wednesday, March 8,” Causby said. “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. In fact, it is my determination that we will not have enough staff to safely run our school district.”
He added that the school’s closure is not political.
“It is entirely about the safety of students and the district’s inability to operate with a high number of staff absences,” he said.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is one of two public school systems in Orange County, N.C., which serves more than 12,000 students.
Reaction from Parents
Many PGCPS parents are upset by the school closures.
“Put the energy in something more. You feminists are a problem. Not about you…it’s about the children,” one parent wrote.
Another parent commented, “This is the most ridiculous decision PGCo has ever made. What a waste and what a poor message this sends our children. Why not hold this ‘protest’ on a Saturday so that our children, whose education is being impacted, don’t have to suffer for the decision of those who are protected by a union. Decisions like this just add to why we are moving out of this county and into a better school district.”
Other parents are supportive of the movement. A parent wrote the following on the Facebook page of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools:
“Way to go teachers! The whole point is to make people realize what an inconvenience it is when women don’t show up.
“You are doing a brave and great thing. Thank you. (From a parent who is facing said inconvenience!)”
A PGCPS parent also posted on Facebook, “Yes, its an inconvenience, but isn’t that the point of ‘Day without a Women’ How much more ‘inconvenience’ would you be without women daily Stand for equity for all women.”
Women’s March organizers suggested that those who are able to strike attend rallies and marches for International Women’s Day and support or volunteer with local groups.