Wayne County Public Schools will join several other school systems across the state in closing May 16, as teachers head to Raleigh to rally for higher wages and better working conditions during the March for Teachers and Rally for Respect event.

The district announced today that it has received over 300 requests for leave on the day of the rally from teachers and other classified personnel, with the number "continuing to climb by the hour," according to a press release from WCPS Superintendent Michael Dunsmore.

As not every substitute teacher in the district's pool will be available, and many support staff members will also travel to Raleigh to show support, the district made the decision to close for students rather than send them to school without adequate staffing.

"Wayne County Public Schools supports its teachers, and strives to have the best and the brightest at the head of each classroom," Dunsmore wrote in the release. "While this closure will cost the district a day of valuable instructional time, I believe those teachers and staff members who requested leave have weighed these costs against the potential outcomes they hope to achieve for all North Carolina public schools by standing in solidarity with their colleagues from across the state on May 16."

According to the release, Dunsmore presented his plan to close school to individual members of the Wayne County Board of Education yesterday afternoon. One board member was not in favor of the closure or the rally, but the release did not identify which board member that was.

Wayne County joins at least 18 other school districts in closing for the rally. Those districts include Wake County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Guilford County and Winston-Salem Forsyth, which are the four largest school systems in the state, as well as neighboring Johnston County and nearby Pitt County.

The day will still be a teacher workday for staff who choose to remain in Wayne County.

The rally is set to begin at the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters at 700 S. Salisbury St. in Raleigh at 10 a.m. From there, demonstrators will move to the General Assembly galleries as the legislature convenes around noon, followed by lunch and then a "Rally for Respect" on the Bicentennial Plaza at 3 p.m.