A Northern Virginian school system is canceling classes for all students on March 8 as hundreds of its teachers have decided to take the day off to join national women’s rights protests.
School officials in Alexandria announced this week that 300 of its teachers will be absent from school on Wednesday to attend “A Day Without a Woman” and “International Women’s Strike” — which means schools will have to be closed because of inadequate staffing. The officials said the demonstrations consist of a sizable share of the 1,415 teachers in the 16-school system.
“Given the unusually high number of requests, this may be attributed to the observance of International Women's Day. This day has also been deemed ‘A Day Without Women.’ Consequently, ACPS has decided to close schools for students for the day,” superintendent Alvin L. Crawley said in a statement sent to parents and posted on the Alexandria City Public School website.
“A Day Without a Woman” is a strike for "equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity," and is organized by the team behind the Women’s March on Washington.
Women are encouraged to take the day off and join the demonstrations. They can also wear red for solidarity, according to the Women’s March website.
As for men, organizers are calling on them to "lean into care work and housework,” giving women the chance to take part in local protests.
However, some people are concerned how low-income families would manage. Nearly 60 percent of the city’s students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Teachers, who bill by the hour and get no paid time off, are worried closing the schools would mean losing a full-day pay.
The ACPS isn’t the only school system closing on Wednesday. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School in North Carolina also canceled classes for the day stating a “significant” number of teachers wanted to join the strike.
"While Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools values and supports its female employees, the decision to close schools is not a political statement. It is entirely about the safety of students and the district's inability to operate with a high number of staff absences," Superintendent Jim Causby wrote in a statement.
Yet, many schools in Washington remain largely unaffected by the upcoming march. Officials in Maryland and Northern Virginia besides Alexandria said they have not received many requests for days off and will operate normally.
The protest largely aims to draw attention to the role of women in labor force and to campaign for equal pay and family leave policies.
The protest comes after last month’s “Day Without Immigrants,” when many eateries, stores and businesses closed their doors to show solidarity with immigrants who went on strike to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban.