School resumes first day after statewide strike

MORGANTOWN — Motorists in Monongalia County on Wednesday morning were once again sharing the road with those big yellow buses.

County schools were back in session following a nine-day, statewide teacher walkout.

At North Elementary School, in Morgantown, whoops and cheers echoed down the main hallway, as students charged in for the first day of classes since the strike over salaries and insurance was called Feb. 22.

Carol Muniz, an assistant principal at the school on Chestnut Ridge Road, said the first morning back was smooth.

“Everything came together really well,” she said. “We’re just so glad to see our kids. We’re just happy to be back.”

It was the same scene on the western end of Monongalia County, where the morning bell at Clay-Battelle, a combination middle school and high school, rang for the first time in nine days.

Principal David Cottrell said he met with teachers and staff before the bell. Then, everyone went out in the main hall to greet Cee-Bees sailing back in.

“Lots of smiling faces,” he said. “We’re a real community out here. We’re family.”

That family and community never stopped championing the teachers during the walkout, Cottrell said.

Teachers in all 55 counties in West Virginia dug in, he said, during tough negotiations in Charleston. When it was done, public school educators, and other service workers, were able to walk away with a 5 percent pay raise.

“Everybody here has a real sense of accomplishment,” he said. “The staff has grown because of this.”

Now, Cottrell said, it’s back to business — especially for the school’s senior class readying to go forth.

“I’m meeting with our seniors this morning,” the principal said. He said he was going to talk to them about scholarship applications and course work in their advanced placement classes — the usual 12th-year rundown, he said.

Only with more urgency after a nine-day void.

“We’re gonna have to maximize every minute from here on out,” the principal said.

School superintendents across the state, in the mean time, now have to dig in and decide — with help and direction from their elected boards — how to make up days missed.

State School Superintendent Steven Paine issued a statement shortly after the Tuesday announcement the strike was over:

“My staff and I will work with each of our counties to identify every opportunity to maximize instruction while also minimizing disruption to students and families,” that statement read.

In Monongalia County, Superintendent Frank Devono said Tuesday he was ready to get started on that work with the help of the state office

in Charleston.

“We’ll try to get that out sooner rather than later about what days we’ll have to make up and how much longer we’ll have to go in the summer,” he said.

Barbara Parsons, who is president of Monongalia County’s Board of Education, said she’s expecting recommendations during Tuesday’s coming meeting at Clay-Battelle.

Follow The Dominion Post on Twitter@DominionPostWV. Email Jim Bissett: jbissett@dominionpost.com.

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