The Vigo County School Corp. and other Wabash Valley districts will join more than 50 school corporations statewide in canceling school Nov. 19, when teachers across the state plan to go to Indianapolis to rally for better teacher pay and improved public school funding.

“We are doing this in support of our teachers and to ensure every day is a significant academic opportunity. The snow day will be made up on Friday, Feb. 14, our first scheduled snow day makeup day,” said Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications.

A letter was sent home with students Friday. The district wanted to provide families with plenty of notice so they could make arrangements.

The district, and others, are calling it a “snow day” because “it is the only tool we have to cancel school,” Riley stated. “By calling it a snow day, our staff and parents know to follow normal snow day protocols.”

North Central Parke and South Vermillion also are calling off school Nov. 19 and have announced makeup days.

The Indiana State Teachers Association has organized a statewide Red For Ed Action Day at the Indiana Statehouse, and it reported that thousands of teachers have registered to attend. It also said that more than 60 districts were calling off school.

Nov. 19 is Organization Day at the Statehouse, where legislators will gather ahead of the 2020 legislative session to talk about priorities.

About half of VCSC teachers indicated they would take a personal day that day, which is part of the reason school has been canceled Nov. 19, Riley said.

“We had two things on our mind,” he said. “We don’t believe we could safely hold school on that day.”

Also, Riley said, “Could we have a good education day on that day? We think the answer is no.” Many teachers would be absent, and the district doesn’t have enough substitutes to cover for all of them.

VCSC also “is supportive of our teachers doing this,” Riley said. “It’s not just about logistics for us.”

According to the Associated Press, school days are being called off for tens of thousands of Indiana students as their teachers make plans for attending the union-organized rally.

Other school district officials are having to cancel because so many teachers are taking personal time off and they wouldn’t be able to find enough substitute teachers to cover classrooms, AP reports. But they also say they support the push by teachers for a bigger boost in school funding.

“They aren’t taking personal days anymore. We’ve called a snow day. Teachers don’t work on snow days,’ Riley said later in the evening. “If we wouldn’t have called a snow day, they would have needed to use personal days. The high number of requested days was one reason we decided to call off.”

Riley said teachers wont get paid for Nov. 19 but will now be paid for Feb. 14.

A letter sent home with Vigo County School Corp. students Friday stated in part that Indiana public school funding ranks 47th in the nation, according to the National Education Association. The Rockefeller Institute reports that Indiana ranks at the bottom nationwide for teacher salary raises over the last 10 years.

“Our teachers are charged to care for our community’s most precious gifts: our children,” said Rob Haworth, superintendent, in the letter. “In over 50 community meetings, we mentioned that teachers don’t enter the profession to be rich, but they do deserve a salary that is more competitive with neighboring states. We support our educators as they call for education to be the top priority in the 2020 legislative session.”

Administrative offices will remain open Nov. 19.

Vigo County voters made an eight-year investment in the local school corporation on Nov. 5. “By supporting our educators and allowing them to travel to Indianapolis Nov. 19, it is our hope that changes are made at the state level to make a more sustainable investment in all Indiana schools,” the VCSC letter says.

Both South Vermillion and North Central Parke announced on Facebook pages that they are canceling school. South Vermillion’s makeup day is Feb. 17, pending board approval, while North Central Parke’s makeup day is March 18.

South Vermillion’s extracurricular activities will continue as normal Nov. 19.

South Vermillion Superintendent, Dave Chapman, stated, “Please know that I fully support the teachers in this event. We also have an obligation to the students and having 54 classroom teachers requesting leave days on the 19th and only being able to fill less than half of those, we felt it was not in the best interest to conduct school without being able to provide quality instruction, adequate supervision and maintain a level of school safety we feel comfortable with.”

North Central Parke posted: “In consideration of the number of teachers who will be out, and as what appears to be the best way to show support for teachers, all NCP schools will be closed on that date [Nov. 19].”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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