School System Closed Thursday in Harrison County; Manchin Talks Work Stoppage, Extracurriculars

By Jeff Toquinto on February 28, 2018 via

Despite reports from Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders Tuesday during press conferences in Charleston to the contrary, it appears that the work stoppage involving educators and school service personnel is not officially over - at least not in Harrison County and a growing list of others.
The announcement of the school closure in Harrison and other counties are coming despite a statement from Steven Paine, the State Superintendent of Schools. In his statement, Paine said he expected school to be in session statewide Thursday.
Harrison County and others will not be meeting that expectation.
As of just after 5 p.m., school officials began releasing information that school is closed in Harrison County for Thursday, March 1.
“We’re going to stay together through this no matter what. I won’t allow this situation to fracture the county and as I’ve said before, you’re either all in or you’re not,” Manchin said.
Locally as of 5:30 p.m. Gilmer County, Taylor County and Mingo County were also listed as closed for Thursday on the West Virginia Department of Education Web site.
Earlier, the Web site flashed an error message. It can be accessed by clicking HERE.
Manchin said he believed more than 100 local teachers were in Charleston today to voice their displeasure over what took place Tuesday. Educators and school service personnel have been in a work stoppage since last week over concerns relating primarily to increases in costs related to health insurance through PEIA.
There are other factors as well. Issues with seniority and pay are among the concerns facing educators as well as service personnel and other state workers and public employees.
On Tuesday, Justice announced that there was money to provide a 5 percent pay increase. He also announced a task force would be formed to find a way to have a dedicated funding source or some revenue stream to handle cost increases to PEIA into the future. After the announcement, it was determined that school would return to session Thursday.
The move apparently didn’t set well with many who wanted an answer to that question as opposed to a task force. Because of that, Charleston was again filled with those in the education and service personnel field from counties statewide, which eventually led to the decision to close school for Thursday.
“If school is closed, then the buildings will remained closed. Everything is dark until this thing is completed,” said Manchin.
Manchin said that means the extracurricular schedule for boys and girls basketball games for area teams will go on as scheduled – at out of town venues. It also means only volunteers and administrators can coach.
Bridgeport will square off with Roane County with a berth in the state tournament on the line Thursday. Instead of being played at BHS, the game will be played at Buckhannon-Upshur High School at 7 p.m. barring some unforeseen change in the status early tomorrow.
As for an official statement from the Board Offices, this is on their Web site. 
"In the spirit of maintaining unity in Harrison County Schools and in light of the reports of continued unrest in our county and statewide, Harrison County Schools will remain closed March 1, 2018 in support of our service and professional personnel. We remain hopeful that the issues will be resolved at the state level so that in the very near future our bus drivers, cooks, secretaries, teachers, and all of our employees will return to work. With the confirmation of continued picketing throughout our county tomorrow, we must continue to consider the safety and provision for our students and support of our employees as paramount in our decision."
Editor's Note: Picutred is Harrison County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Manchin.
Read a story by Julie Perine with comments from BHS educator, WVEA union rep J.D. Lister, who spent the day at the state capitol, HERE.

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