ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Public schools in Alexandria will close Wednesday after more than 300 teachers and staff filed for leave in observance of International Women's Day. The school system announced its decision on Monday and apologized to families that now must deal with childcare issues.
Some activists have called for a women's strike on Wednesday, calling it "A Day Without Women."
Helen Lloyd, director of communications with Alexandria City Public Schools, spoke with FOX 5 about the decision to close schools Wednesday after hundreds of teachers requested the day off.
Lloyd said the decision to close was made after school officials became aware that hundreds of teacher intended to take leave on the same day.
"It's a decision that we took around safety and the ability to deliver instruction for our students on that day," she said. Lloyd said it became clear on Monday morning that hundreds of requests were made for Wednesday.
Lloyd said that no policy or rules were broken by the teachers and that the requests for time off fall under personal leave. "We have practice of approving that leave wherever possible. Otherwise we're left in the situation of choosing - selecting when we approve some leave and when we choose to deny others," Lloyd said. "This is personal leave. This is not leave we make a decision over one way or the other," she added.
Lloyd says that high requests for personal leave are made for the same day, the schools look at the impact it will have on daily operations. "Usually we can cover these leave requests through substitutes," she said. "In this particular situation the leave requests were so high that we actually did not have sufficient substitutes to cover classroom instruction for that day."
"The decision from Alexandria City Public Schools was not a political decision - and we need to make that very clear," Lloyd said. "We did not make this because of politics. We made this decision because of safety and our ability to cover classrooms on this day."
Lloyd said that to try and minimize the impact the school closures will have on parents, six school cafeterias will open for breakfast and lunch. She said that all students of any school in the Alexandria City Public School system are eligible for breakfast and lunch meals tomorrow. She said there will be enough staff to hold afterschool activities.
"We are not in the position and the practice of making decisions for our staff. If they request leave, if it is a certain type of leave we generally are in the practice of approving that leave," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.