UPDATE: Parents divided as 97 percent of Putnam Co. students stay home

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PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 2/20/19 @ 5:58 p.m.
It was a normal day of school in Putnam County. The only things missing were most teachers and almost all students.

It's the only county in West Virginia where school was not canceled Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s also the only place where striking teachers will not get paid.

Just 3 percent of students were in attendance on the second day of the strike, down from 10 percent Tuesday.

There were almost as many cars in the parking lot from teachers on strike as staff actually inside Winfield High School Wednesday afternoon.

Debbie Handley is a mother to nine kids ages 2 to 17. She kept hers home Tuesday because of fear.

"It was scary,” she said. “I was afraid there wasn't enough school teachers in the school."

She said her fears were confirmed when she stopped by Hurricane High School for a different reason and saw 45 high school students in the gym with one adult supervising.

"I think they missed no education," Handley said. "The kids said they watched movies. They can do that at home on the couch."

So hers stayed home again Wednesday, joined by 97 percent of students countywide.

Superintendent John Hudson refused our interview requests again Wednesday, but his office provided some information.

Officials said 21 percent of professional staff reported for work Wednesday including principals, secretaries and aides. They said there was 25 percent attendance Tuesday, which includes personnel at central office. No extra substitutes were called in either day.

Teachers who stayed home will not get paid. According to West Virginia code, they cannot use vacation time or personal leave without written documentation of a legitimate reason to be absent, like a doctor’s note of a previously scheduled appointment.

Cathy Hall is a graduate of Putnam County schools and mother to a pair of adult graduates. She came by the Central Office for a different reason.

"I came to thank Mr. Hudson personally for keeping Putnam County schools open," Hall said.

She had called and complained about school being canceled last year and wanted to take the time this time around to thank him.

She took her kids to school during the 1990 teachers strike because she and her husband couldn't afford childcare.

"Taxpayers are paying teachers to teach in the classroom, not stand on the picket line," Hall said.

She was especially upset about that decision Wednesday, one day after the House killed the bill, with no firm reason to believe it would be revived.

"They should have been back in the classroom for sure today."

Meanwhile, that's what Handley hopes happens on Thursday.

"I would like it to go back to normal tomorrow,” she said. “I feel better about them in school, education. I feel better with all that."

The State Department of Education will guide other counties after the strike is over when it comes to paying teachers, but they likely will have to make up the time at the end of the year.

Students in Putnam County will not be penalized if they didn’t come to school Tuesday or Wednesday as long as they bring a parent or guardian's note.

Putnam officials tell us about half the schools had a regular cook on hand to prepare the meal. Other schools used administrators or other staff to prepare cold cut sandwiches or ready-to-eat items including many from the breakfast which is normally served. They also said many school staff and administrators have a food handling permit with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and followed regular standard operating procedures for handling food.

It was free to all students.



UPDATE 2/20/19 @ 3:45 p.m.
Only about 3 percent of students went to school Wednesday in Putnam County, a school spokeswoman there says.

That was down from about 10 percent attendance on Tuesday.

Putnam County has been the only public school district in West Virginia that has remained open during the statewide strike authorized by three educators' unions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Total professional staff attendance, excluding central office personnel, was 21 percent on Wednesday, according to school officials.



UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 8:05 p.m.
Putnam County Schools will remain open Wednesday, the second day of the teacher strike in West Virginia. For the second consecutive day, it is the only of West Virginia's 55 counties that elected to have school.

A voice message from Putnam County Schools Superintendent John Hudson says, in part, that it is most unfortunate that circumstances beyond local control have resulted in strike.

He says they remain hopeful for the best for students and employees, but says at the urging of both Gov. Jim Justice and state superintendent Dr. Steve Paine the schools will be open following the tabling of the education reform bill.

Hudson goes on to say that they believe it is their obligation to keep schools open, even though he says school buses may not run.

"We respect parents' decision to do what they believe is in the best interest for their students."

Earlier Tuesday evening, West Virginia Education union reps said that they will strike for a second day -- even after Senate Bill 451 was tabled because they don't trust the leadership in the West Virginia Senate.

The bill was an all-encompassing education reform bill that covered a multitude of issues ranging from pay raises, charter schools, education savings accounts and teacher incentive pay -- along with more money for education.

The House Finance Committee is expected to take up the pay raise bill put forward by the governor at the beginning of the legislative session.



UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 3:45 p.m.
Only about 10 percent of students in the Putnam County Schools system were in attendance Tuesday, a school spokeswoman says.

Putnam County was the only of West Virginia's 55 counties that elected to have school on Tuesday.

On Monday evening, three educational unions said they were in favor of a statewide strike due to dissatisfaction with the education reform bill.

The Putnam County Schools spokeswoman says about 25 percent of the staff reported to work on Tuesday.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 10:50 a.m.
A spokesperson with Putnam County Schools says the county will make every attempt to keep schools open during the statewide strike.

"We believe that it is important that we make every attempt to keep our schools open for the students we serve," Communications Coordinator Micah Osborne said. "We will work diligently to provide a safe school environment for the students of Putnam County."

The county is the only one in the state open Tuesday following the announcement of the strike. All other 54 counties closed late Monday evening.

Teachers, parents and other school personnel lined the streets in front of several schools as students arrived early Tuesday.

A WSAZ crew went to West Teays Elementary and counted at least 40 children arrive before 7:30 a.m. Children were still arriving as of 8 a.m. Our crew was told by a staff member that three administrators are inside.

"It's unfortunate that circumstances beyond our local control have resulted in a strike. However, we remain hopeful that the legislative process will result in what is best for school employees and students," Osborne said. "We will communicate regularly with our parents while also respecting their decision regarding what they believe to be in the best interest of their student(s)," Osborne said.

A parent who dropped off his child tells WSAZ he talked to the principal and he was told West Teays Elementary will have instruction today. He feels his child is in good hands at the school.

WSAZ didn't see a bus leave the garage to pick up students. A group of protesters were out at a bus garage early Tuesday morning, many of them from Cabell County.

WSAZ requested an interview with Superintendent John Hudson, but he wasn't available due to meetings he's having with directors and staff throughout the day.

We have crews out in Putnam and other counties in the state.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
Putnam County is the only school in West Virginia opened Tuesday after education unions announced a statewide strike.

Teachers, parents and other school personnel lined the streets as students arrived for school.

A WSAZ crew went to West Teays Elementary and counted at least 40 children arrived before 7:30 a.m. Children were still arriving as of 8 a.m. Our crew was told by a staff member that three administrators are inside.

A parent who dropped off his child tells WSAZ he talked to the principal and he was told West Teays will have instruction today. He feels his child is in good hands at the school.

School is open, but WSAZ hasn't seen a bus leave the garage to pick up students. A group of protesters were out at a bus garage early Tuesday morning, many of them from Cabell County.

We have crews out in Putnam and other counties in the state. Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



 
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