'A Day Without a Woman' for many means a day without school

Shannon Block is skipping work on Wednesday.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., preschool teacher plans to stay home and write postcards to her elected representatives.

“For my congresswoman and senators, because they are fighting for women and women’s rights, I’m going to thank them for the work,” said Block, 26. “For others who I don’t agree with, I’m going to let them know why I’m striking.”

Thousands of women are expected to participate in “A Day Without a Woman,” a spinoff of the women’s march that drew millions of people across the country and around the world into the streets a day after President Trump’s inauguration.

Planners of the march are urging women around the world to stay home from work, avoid shopping or wear red on Wednesday — which is also International Women’s Day — to “highlight the economic power and significance” of women.

Schools may feel some of the biggest effects. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. teachers are women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Two school districts in North Carolina and Virginia have canceled classes, telling about 27,000 students to stay home because not enough teachers and staff plan to show up for work.

In Alexandria, Va., 16 public schools will be closed after 300 members — or more than 20% — of the teaching staff requested the day off.

“This is unprecedented,” said Helen Lloyd, spokeswoman for the Alexandria City Public Schools. “We’ve never had circumstances like this before.”

In Chapel Hill, N.C., where three-quarters of the 2,000 school district employees are women, officials said 400 workers — including teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria staff — indicated they would participate in the strike.

“We didn’t do this so that they can go out and protest,” said Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokesman Jeff Nash, explaining the district’s decision to close. “We did this because we knew there weren’t going to be enough people to safety run our schools.”

The closures drew criticism as some parents scrambled to find childcare.

At Maple Street School in Brooklyn, where Block works, about half of the 45 teachers will show up to provide childcare, according to school director Wendy Cole, who says she’s striking “in spirit.”

“I’ll be here because, really, that amazing balance of taking a stand and making sure people are cared for is very important,” Cole said. “Most of the nurturing and early education is done by women. If that’s not happening, if we strike, there would be no day care. There’d be no preschools without women.”

Even teachers who decide to go to work have the option of participating in demonstrations or rallies outside of school hours, such as the one retired teacher Debby Pope is helping organize for the Chicago Teachers Union.

Pope, who turns 65 this week, says she’s been fighting for women’s rights since 1968, when as a teenager she led a petition to allow girls to wear pants to school.

It worked — a new dress code went into effect the following year.

“We stand a danger of losing so much of what women have fought so hard to gain,” she said. “I’m talking about abortion rights. I’m talking about the gains that women have made through union labor.”

Others are using the national spotlight to bring attention to local issues. In Philadelphia, where public school educators have gone five years without raises, teachers plan to picket before school to publicize stagnant contract negotiations, said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

“The overwhelming majority of our members are female,” Jordan said. “Many of them are heads of households. They really deserve to be treated as professionals, and part of that is they should be able to earn a much better wage than they are now.”

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