It's Happening: School Walkout and Extracurricular Activities; A Plea to Finish Athletic Seasons

By Julie Perine on February 25, 2018 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Informal talk about a potential teachers’ strike started about a month ago. Members of our family and the BHS basketball family started wondering how school athletics and other extracurricular activities would be affected if that happened. Having a senior player who, like his teammates, played ball his whole life – working toward the goal of being a member of the Indian hoops team -  we were concerned if the regular season and/or playoffs could be completed. For a handful of players, it would be their last chance to experience a potential advance in the post-season.
 
On Jan. 26, I called Superintendent of Harrison County Schools Dr. Mark Manchin and asked him his thoughts. In that interview, he said he wasn’t aware that a potential strike was on the horizon. He also said he honestly wasn’t sure how high school sports would be affected if, in fact, educators walked out.  
 
“Questions arise all the time about ball games and practices and they are never easy,” Manchin said in that late-January interview. “We encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities, but if we can’t have school on any given day that is regularly scheduled, my guess is that we can’t have extracurricular activities because they are an extension of school. But that’s purely speculative.”
 
Of course, the walkout did take place. On the evening of Friday, Feb. 23, after the second day of the work stoppage, it was announced that it would continue Monday, Feb. 26. At that time, Dr. Manchin made the decision to cancel all extracurricular activities for Harrison County schools throughout this past weekend and through Monday. He said the reason for his decision was in support of our educators and other school staff. And though his intention was to get everyone on the same page, a lot of disappointment resulted. Harrison County was the only county in the state to put a halt on sports and extracurricular activities.
 
Included in Harrison County extracurricular activities scheduled for this past weekend were the BHS production of “Barnum” and the Class AA Region II, Section 1 girls’ championship basketball game between Bridgeport and Lincoln. To make their concerns known, students from BHS and Lincoln – with their own signs in hand – went to the Harrison County Board of Education office. There were other voices of concern, delivered through phone calls and other actions. Whether or not that had any direct affect, Dr. Manchin did announce later Friday evening that he was in contact with the WVSSAC and they were working to reschedule the girls’ sectional game this week. He also said the school board was working closely with the BHS administration to reschedule “Barnum.” Subsequently, plans were announced that the show would be presented Sunday afternoon and evening.
A meeting is scheduled to take place at the Harrison County Board of Education at 10 a.m. Monday, after which an announcement will be made regarding remaining girls’ post-season play and boys’ post-season, scheduled to start this coming week.
 
As a basketball mom, proud nearly lifelong resident of the Bridgeport community - and huge fan of our teachers - I sure hope these kids get to finish their seasons. Since I thought it was important to hear directly from one of our BHS basketball players, I reached out to senior Lady Indian Kaitlin Smith, who shared her thoughts on why this is so important to her.
 
“I would first like to say that I love our teachers and respect what they do for us. I realize they are requesting to be treated fairly and in this situation, I am asking that we as students be treated fairly like the other 54 counties in the state,” Smith said. “Other communities in our state have shown support for their teachers and at the same time the teachers and administrators have shown support for their students by allowing - and also attending - their activities.”
 
Smith said it’s not just about sports. It’s about all extracurricular activities and it’s about support for all – teachers and school staff; athletes and student actors, etc.
 
“We love our teachers and know they work hard; however, we have also worked hard as well and should not be punished for what others cannot agree upon," she said. "....I just ask that Dr. Manchin please show some compassion and try to make decisions in everyone’s best interests.”
 
It’s hard on the student athletes, as it was for the cast of “Barnum,” to not be able to practice on school property or with their coaches/leaders. Other hoops teams throughout the state are practicing on a regular basis. Harrison County teams cannot do that to prepare, Smith said.
 
“I had teammates (Friday) that stood united with teachers in front of the school in support of their wishes and truly believe that a lot of those teachers would love and support us as well.”
 
Watch for Jeff Toquinto’s story Monday morning with the announcement regarding the immediate future of Harrison County extracurricular activities.
 
Also previously scheduled for this coming week were the Harrison County high school danceline competition and activities involving the All-Harrison County Band. As of now, All-County band rehearsals have been posponed until next week. There's no word yet regarding the dance competition. 
 
Editor's Note: I was able to catch one of Sunday's performances of "Barnum." What an excellent show! I applaud the cast, crew, directors, costumer, circus trainers and absolutely everyone involved in this show. I am so thrilled the public was able to see all the hard work that went into this show. It was a wonderful atmosphere at BHS this afternoon as a packed house thoroughly enjoyed this musical together. It all concluded with many smiles, cheers and a standing ovation. 
 
Pictured above are students outside the BOE office, cast of "Barnum," BHS basketball teams and BHS danceline. The photo of "Barnum" and the Lady Indians basketball team are by Ben Queen Photography. 



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