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Rowan-Salisbury Schools likely to remain open May 1, officials say

SALISBURY — As the number of school districts canceling classes for a May 1 teachers rally continues to grow, leaders of Rowan-Salisbury Schools remain firm in their decision to proceed with business as usual.

To date, 24 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts have canceled classes for the May 1 Rally for Respect. Many have cited a lack of enough substitutes as the reason to cancel classes.

But members of the Rowan-Salisbury administrative staff and board are leaning on existing policy to avoid the substitute conundrum. In an email to principals, Superintendent Lynn Moody quoted from the system’s personal leave policy.

“If the request is made at least five days in advance, the request will be automatically granted subject to the availability of a substitute teacher,” the policy reads.

In Moody’s email, emphasis is added to remarks about substitute teacher availability. The email also lists April 15 as the last day to submit requests in adherence with the five-day policy.

“Personal leave beyond that date requires principal approval, so it will not automatically be granted,” Moody said. “This is also based on availability of substitutes.

Some teachers expressed qualms with the April 15 date, as 11 weekdays fall between that date and the May 1 rally. But Moody said the policy was written for working days, meaning spring break affects the count.

Just five school days separate the 15th with the first, she said: April 16, 17, 18, 29 and 30.

Even so, she said that principals are still at liberty to approve requests that come later. Substitutes, she said, are the key in personal day approval.

“I don’t know that we’ve held anybody particularly to the five days,” Moody told the Post. “What we have felt is that having a substitute in these classrooms is the No. 1 priority. We just have to be sure the school is safe.”

Outside the policy, Moody said any change to the school calendar besides for bad weather depends on a vote of the school board.

Board Chairman Josh Wagner said a class cancellation would be unlikely despite board members empathizing with concerns raised for the rally.

Students are the board’s top priority, Wagner said.

“Because we value our teachers so much, we believe that students stand the best chance of success while in the classroom with a qualified teacher,” said Wagner. “We believe that teachers should have the right to voice their concerns to their state officials. However, we do not believe that must be done during a school day.”

Wagner said the board would be looking for ways to allow teachers to communicate their thoughts and concerns without having students miss out on instruction.

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