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Shot in the arm: Morgantown Learning Academy wins $50K in ‘I Got Vaxxed’ competition

MORGANTOWN — Eve Ammons Ward loves doling out the credit for a job well done.

However, the director of the Morgantown Learning Academy didn’t take any of it last week — when Gov. Jim Justice and Babydog rolled up to her school.

Justice and the state’s most recognizable canine were there to present a $50,000 check, Publisher’s Clearinghouse-style.

The academy was one of the first winners in the “I Got Vaxxed” competition launched over the summer by the state Department of Education.

To qualify, schools had to have at 80% of their teachers and staff inoculated.

Morgantown Learning Academy presented with 100%, Ward said.

“People kept asking me, ‘What’s your secret?’ ‘How were you able to do this?’” the administrator remembered.

“I’d have to laugh, because I didn’t do anything. It was all the good people on our staff.”

In other words, she said, they automatically rolled up their sleeves, with no official prompting.

Morgantown Learning Academy is a nonprofit, private school for children from preschool to eighth grade. It’s tucked away off Cheat Road and has been serving area families in its various incarnations since 1967.

“Family” is the watchword at the academy, she said.

“The idea was to keep our kids and their families safe,” the administrator said. “There was never any question about that.”

Shelley Riley, the academy’s office manager, knows about families. Three of her four children are graduates of the school, and she logged lots of hours as a volunteer mom there before being hired.

With 91 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, it’s hard not to form attachments, she said.

Both she and Ward said the academy will use the prize to reinstate some of the events and traditions that were taken away last year when the pandemic first hit — graduation and the fine arts exhibition, most notably.

“We’re thinking about field trips, too,” she said.

That no longer seems as far-off, she said, since good vaccination rates are also being notched by the academy’s students.

Many of those students, meanwhile, were thinking about other things two weeks ago, after the governor and a certain four-legged sidekick sidled in with the giant cutout of the check.

“Who y’all more excited to see?” Justice asked. “Me, or Babydog?”

He laughed, as the applause told the tale.

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