By YASMINE ASKARI
Prince George’s County Public Schools were closed last Wednesday in a last-minute decision due to a high number of teachers and staff members taking the day off for the Day Without a Woman protest.
“Throughout Prince George’s County Public Schools, a high number of school-based and support staff have requested leave for Wednesday, March 8. As of 5:30 p.m., approximately 1,700 teachers and 30 percent of transportation staff have requested leave. We cannot transport students and provide safe, productive learning environments without adequate staff,” Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said in a statement. “As a result, schools will be closed tomorrow for students. We apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause to many families.”
The day-long strike, which coincided with International Woman’s Day, was organized by the Women’s March on Washington. Following the lead of the “Bodega strike” in New York City by Yemini store owners and the Day Without Immigrants, the strike intended to highlight the importance of women in the workforce and as consumers.
“This was not a union led effort,” said Theresa Dudley, president of Prince George’s County’s largest teacher union, the Prince George’s County Educator Association. “I was just as surprised as everyone else when they closed school for the children.”
Most teachers were reluctant to come forth on whether they took the day off for the protest due to the county’s stance on stating political views. Despite this, Dudley disclosed that many teachers went to the rally in Washington in representation of Prince George’s County educators.
While some parents on social media expressed disappointment about the short notice, parent organizations such as Reform PGCPS were more supportive.
“The timing of the cancellation was surprising and appeared a last minute resort, however, given the high rate of projected staff absences, the system did not have much choice,” the group said in an email.
“Our organization recognizes the importance and impact of such an event and is supportive of the cause. There is of course the question of the timing of the event during the workweek, scheduling it during the weekend might have allowed more women to participate without having to lose wages,” the group stated.
Other parents on social media noted that while schools had been closed, the school lunch program was still running for underprivileged children.
“Great job PGCPS in recognizing our community needs and much respect for using this platform to inform all,” one parent said on Facebook.
Prince George’s County was one of three large school districts to cancel classes due to the protest. Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina also cancelled classes due to the high number of staff taking leave.