PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 5:12 p.m.
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine released the following statement Tuesday about the statewide teacher strike:
“Based on the action taken today by the House of Delegates, SB 451 has been tabled indefinitely. Educator voices were clearly heard. I strongly encourage all county school systems to return to school tomorrow, February 20. I urge educators to respect the process and allow it to work. I understand that there is still concern over what may happen next. Both Governor Justice and many members of the legislature have shown a commitment to listening to the voice of educators and doing what is best for West Virginia students. Additionally, Governor Justice has called for the legislature to consider his stand-alone pay raise bill along with other measures to improve county finances and I am confident they will do so.”
Schools in 54 of 55 West Virginia counties closed Tuesday due to a statewide teacher strike in protest of Senate Bill 451.
UPDATE 2/18/19 @ 10:53 p.m.
At last year's strike, the teacher's motto was "55 United." At least for now, teachers are one county short of that being accurate again.
Monday night, Putnam County was the lone county in West Virginia not calling off school for Tuesday.
At a fiery Board of Education meeting Monday evening that was standing-room only, teachers made it clear how disappointed they are.
Teachers were already upset with the Putnam County Board of Education for not taking a stand against the controversial education reform bill.
School boards in nearby counties like Kanawha and Cabell have spoken out against the bill, but Putnam teachers feel like they haven't gotten the same level of support from their board.
"We really wanted our board support," Hurricane Town Elementary teacher Heather Holland said. "We are just really disappointed."
"It makes it rough because then we have to work with the teachers here in the county to make sure we're all on the same page instead of going to the Capitol and fighting where we should be," Putnam teacher Levi Billiter said.
When we asked why they're choosing to stay open, a Putnam schools spokesperson said, "It is important that our students continue to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure environment. Each day our schools provide much for the students we serve such as a safe and caring environment, meals, and the opportunity to participate in various extra-curricular activities."
At the meeting, school board president Rob Cunningham told the large crowd that school board members don't universally support the AFT's published national agenda.
Cunningham said he'd spoken with a parent who supported the education reform bill but was afraid to support it publicly for fear of retaliation from teachers against her children.
"That fear, whether real or imagined, is very disturbing to me," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said the school board was not politically motivated but motivated to do what's best for the students.
"Knowing that we, Putnam County, score better, treat our employees better, and pay better than Cabell, Kanawha, and Lincoln, why would we choose to follow what they do?" Cunningham said.
UPDATE 2/18/19 @ 10:05 p.m.
Every public school district in West Virginia will be closed Tuesday except Putnam County, according to the West Virginia Department of Education.
Putnam County Schools released the following statement late Monday night:
"Putnam County Schools will be open Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. It is important that our students continue to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure environment. Each day our schools provide much for the students we serve such as a safe and caring environment, meals, and the opportunity to participate in various extra-curricular activities."
Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.
ORIGINAL STORY 2/18/19
The following school districts have announced they will participate in Tuesday's work stoppage after three teachers' unions called for a statewide strike Click here for more:
As of just before 10 p.m. Monday, every public school district in West Virginia is closed except Putnam County. Click here to see a statewide map of each county.