Schools remain closed despite directive from state official

FRANKLIN — Despite directions from the state superintendent for a return to the classroom, schools will be closed today in Pendleton County and other counties around West Virginia due to a continuing walkout by teachers and service personnel demanding not only higher pay but a permanent solution to PEIA costs.

Pendleton County School Superintendent Charles Hedrick had previously announced Wednesday would be a “cooling off” period with classes picking up today, but late Wednesday evening Pendleton joined other counties statewide in canceling school today.

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Paine had “officially” called for a day of preparation for all public schools on Wednesday.

“I am expecting all schools across the state to be open on Thursday and have asked each county superintendent to direct employees to report at normal time on that date and to resume the school year,” Paine said.

Following a meeting in Gov. Jim Justice’s office between leaders of the American Federation of Teachers – West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel on Tuesday to negotiate a deal to end the work stoppage, Justice proposed a deal raising state revenue estimates to provide an average five percent raise for teachers and other school system personnel.

The rising costs of the PEIA would be dealt with by a special task force. Union members were unhappy with the PEIA task force promise and want to keep the momentum going until there is a permanent fix to PEIA.

Justice wanted teachers and school service personnel to return to work today so there will not be court action with “injunctions and everything” to stop the strike. He said an immediate PEIA fix would be impossible to do, according to an interview on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“Health care is not easily fixed, and it is not going to be easily solved tomorrow. Now if they can’t be happy with what we’ve done thus far, then this is going to be one rough ride,” Justice said.

Wednesday some school employees returned to the state capitol saying they are not happy with the deal, saying they have not heard of a fix for PEIA. Some said they felt the legislative leaders should have joined the governor in his announcement for the solution to end the work stoppage. They would like to see a permanent fix for PEIA, whose increases some said were the initial cause for the strike.