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SMITHFIELD — Joining school districts from across the state, Johnston County Public Schools has canceled classes May 1 as teachers take their concerns to the state capital.
Officials said 505 teachers, teacher assistants, bus drivers and other personnel had requested leave on May 1, when the North Carolina Association of Educators has scheduled its 2019 Day of Advocacy at the N.C. General Assembly. Superintendent Ross Renfrow designated May 1 as an optional teacher workday.
“The safety and security of our 37,000 students, including the 23,000 students who ride the bus daily, is of the utmost importance to Johnston County Public Schools,” spokeswoman Crystal Roberts said in a news release.
Renfrow said holding classes with so many teachers and other employees absent was untenable.
“Without the presence of essential staff members, normal operations will be disrupted and create possible issues regarding the order of our school day,” Renfrow said in the release.
Johnston County Board of Education Chairman Mike Wooten said school board members “fully support our superintendent’s decision,” and added that the board supports teachers’ right to lobby state lawmakers.
“Our teachers’ voice is important and valuable to us,” Wooten said in the release. “We also appreciate those who provide the support services necessary to ensure academic achievement. We rely heavily upon our teacher assistants, bus drivers, custodians, school nutrition, and clerical staff to serve our students.”
While no classes will be held, Selma, Micro, Princeton, Cooper, West Smithfield, Corinth Holders and Four Oaks elementary schools will open their cafeterias for breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast — a chocolate crescent roll, fruit juice and milk — will be served from 8-8:30 a.m. Lunch — barbecue chicken flatbread, spinach salad, an Emoji fruit freeze and milk — will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Students eat free; the cost for parent meals will be $3.50.
Roughly 19,000 teachers and supporters participated in the NCAE’s 2018 teacher rally held on May 16. The association is calling for increases in per-pupil spending, passage of a $1.9 billion school construction bond and a comprehensive pay and benefits plan for teachers and school employees, among other investments in public education.
The decision to cancel classes mirrors school districts in Wake, Wilson and Nash counties along with numerous others. Due to small numbers of scheduled absences, public schools in Harnett and Sampson counties planned to operate on normal schedules May 1, according to The Daily Record of Dunn.
Johnston County Public Schools said it will notify students and parents of any rescheduled testing, special events, field trips and any other activities planned for May 1.