WHEELING — All public schools in the Northern Panhandle are closed today due to a statewide work stoppage by teachers and school service personnel that was called abruptly on Monday evening.
Unions representing those workers made the move in response to an omnibus education bill pending before the Legislature. The Senate on Monday threw out many of the changes to the bill made last week by the House of Delegates, prompting the call for the walkout.
Ohio County Schools officials called off school for today at 8:15 p.m. Monday, and Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones said he and other district officials were caught off guard by the announcement made by the three unions Monday evening.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I was getting ready to go to the boys’ basketball game. I had no indication this was coming. I got a call and I came in to work.”
Jones said it will be determined sometime this morning whether a meeting of the full board will be needed sometime today. He said a decision also will have to be made regarding whether after-school activities will be permitted.
“This is a day-to-day process. We’re hoping something changes (today) that gets everybody together so we can have school Wednesday … ,” Jones said late Monday. “But tonight we had to make the decision based on the safety of the students that we can’t hold school (Tuesday).”
Ohio County Education Association President Jenny Craig didn’t return calls seeking Monday night. Ohio County School Service Personnel President Jerry Ames, also vice president of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, said he didn’t “wish to comment at this time.”
Hancock County Superintendent Tim Woodward said staff call-offs started coming in to his office shortly after the three unions made their announcement just after 6 p.m Monday. Within an hour he was making plans to cancel school for today.
“I have almost 40 percent staff out,” he said at about 7:15 p.m. “That is going to force me to call off school. I have no bus drivers, and a large number of teachers have called off.”
He said he has plans to call a meeting of the board of education today to discuss further plans. For now, Woodward said he is standing behind his teachers and staff.
“I was very unhappy on what the Senate did with the bill,” he said. “I wish we could have gotten it through the system. It seems the Senate doesn’t want to undertake the process.
“I am supporting my people at this time. We will discuss how we move on from here.”
Marshall County officials called off school at about 7:45 p.m. Monday.
“It was just decided we would close because of the statewide work stoppage that was called,” district spokesman Tony Wood said.
Further actions will be decided on a day-by-day basis, he added.
All school districts in the Northern Panhandle had canceled school for today by 8:30 p.m. Monday.
Tyler County Schools Superintendent Robin Daquilante said she learned of the call for the work stoppage as she sat down for a school board meeting.
“We are calling off school because we do not have enough people to assure adequate safety,” she said. “It’s a little crazy here right now.”