The arrival of an estimated 15,000 teachers for a march and rally in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday will pose some logistical challenges for the teachers — and for others who will be in town that day.
And if you thought it would be a good afternoon to take the kids to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences or the N.C. Museum of History, you might want to think again. The teachers plan to hold their rally in the plaza outside the museums.
Many of the teachers from out of town are expected to arrive on charter buses, which will drop them off near the headquarters of the N.C. Association of Educators at 700 S. Salisbury St. The NCAE wants everyone in place before the march to the Legislative Building gets started at 10 a.m.
But many others will drive, and as the NCAE has told its members, parking will be at a premium. The association has provided a link to a map of public parking decks and lots downtown on its website and told teachers they may want to consider parking near the Legislative Building and walk several blocks to the start of the march.
The association also provided a form teachers could fill out to indicate which GoRaleigh or GoTriangle bus they might take into downtown. The local bus systems may add buses to their regular routes if demand is high enough, according to the NCAE.
The form urges Wake County teachers to park at their schools if they are near a bus route, leaving the park-and-ride lots for out-of-town teachers.
On Tuesday, Raleigh police were advising people to expect heavy traffic downtown after 8 a.m. and suggested people arrive for work before then or after noon.
The NCAE organized the "March for Students and Rally for Respect" to urge legislators to increase teacher pay and per-pupil funding for education.
The NCAE's permit allows the teachers to march from near the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts up the sidewalks of Fayetteville and Salisbury streets to the Legislative Building. Raleigh police may decide Wednesday that it will be safer for marchers to walk in Fayetteville Street instead, said association spokesman Tim Crowley.
"We do not currently have a permit for the street," Crowley said. "When we first stated this, the numbers were not where we needed a street permit."
He said between 13,000 and 15,000 teachers have arranged to take a personal leave day to participate in the march and rally, but that doesn't include parents, students and other supporters who may show up.
Raleigh police said that even if Fayetteville Street remains open they would block the cross streets as marchers make their way toward the State Capitol.
After appearing in the galleries during a session of the legislature and meeting with legislators individually, the teachers will hold a rally at 3:30 p.m. in Bicentennial Plaza, which runs from the Legislative Building to the state Capitol between the two museums.
When the rally is over, at about 4:30 p.m., many teachers will make their way back toward the Duke Energy Center to get to their cars or to get on the buses that dropped them off in the morning. That means many of the marchers will be trying to leave downtown just as rush hour is getting started.