Happy to see school buses again

What a joy it is to see the yellow school buses running again!

If the West Virginia teacher strike did nothing else, it reminded us that free public schools offer a great service to the community.

Anyone who thinks teaching is an easy job should have tried to help take care of children while they were out of school.

The YMCA and Phil Gainer Event Center were full of kids of all ages during the nine strike days.

Kump Education Center AmeriCorps mentors went both places to help keep children safely engaged in activities.

At the Event Center, Jeanne Johnson started up early Tuesday morning cooking breakfast for some 75 hungry little people. William Gartmann helped direct scooter traffic on the big gym floor while Jodi Calkins kept the beanbag toss going in a side room.

When I went over to check on our AmeriCorps members, teacher Lori DiBacco was helping children make crafts on the stage, and Event Center Director Chris Lee was on the gym floor running vigorously to avoid being tagged by a flying basketball.

EPRC Director Tom Tesar and his wife, D&E Education Professor Dr. Jennifer Tesar, were also helping keep order in the very active space.

It was good to see such community support from the city of Elkins.

Mayor Broughton and I have talked about the fact that we have a larger percentage of children in poverty in the city of Elkins than in Randolph County as a whole. Many of these children do not have enough food at home, and nobody is there to look after them in the daytime.

These children are the future citizens of our community, and we will have to depend on them as our local workforce someday.

For me the West Virginia teacher strike was a time to reflect on the American value system. During the strike, the news media was full of accounts of the school shooting in Florida.

Our leaders seem unwilling to spend money to pay teachers, yet they protect the rights of emotionally disturbed youth to buy guns to shoot their classmates and teachers.

It is time to recognize that children are the most important product of any society. If they do not have the skills they need to become productive citizens, the future is bleak.

Voters have to decide what needs to be done to give children safe and constructive opportunities to learn and grow.

Issues like child care, teacher pay, mental health, drug treatment and even gun safety can be resolved when we make children our top priority.