Northern Panhandle School Districts Scramble To Prepare for Walkout

West Virginia Legislative Services Photo West Virginia teachers and school personnel pack the gallery in the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Charleston on Monday.

WHEELING — Northern Panhandle public school administrators are determining how to address the potential walkout by teachers and service personnel this week.

As of Monday, school was still scheduled to be in session on Thursday and Friday, according to administrators, though that is subject to change.

Local superintendents were called to Charleston on Monday for an emergency meeting with State Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine, where they were to discuss how best to handle the event of a strike by school teachers and employees.

At least three counties have scheduled emergency board of education meetings to discuss potential work stoppages:

∫ The Hancock County Board of Education will meet at 1 p.m. today at the board office, 104 N. Court St., New Cumberland;

∫ The Marshall County Board of Education is set to convene at 6 p.m. today, at 214 Middle Grave Creek Road, Moundsville; and

∫ The Ohio County Board of Education will meet at 8 a.m. Wednesday, at 2203 National Road, Wheeling.

Other announcements could be forthcoming. Also at issue is the fate of extracurricular activities scheduled for Thursday and Friday, with no local schools making any decisions.

“At this time, school is on for Thursday and Friday,” Ohio County Schools spokesman Gabe Wells said. “If that changes, we will alert parents and the public.”

Tyler County Superintendent Robin Daquilante said she will wait as long as possible before calling off school.

“There have been no decisions made,” Daquilante said. “I expect to make that decision Wednesday after 3 p.m.”

School officials in Wetzel and Brooke counties did not return message seeking comment Monday.

Teachers and school service employees have called for a walkout to protest what they see as a failure by the Legislature to halt their rising Public Employees Insurance Agency premiums, which now have been frozen for the next 17 months by the PEIA board.

They are also unhappy with legislation giving teachers as much a 2 percent hike in 2019, and 1 percent raises each of the following three years. The service employees and members of the State Police would get a 2 percent raise the first year, and 1 percent the second year.

The pay raise measure remains in the Senate Rules Committee as leaders decide whether to accept changes in the bill made by the House, amend the bill or vote to accept it.

Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, said there continues to be discussion in the Senate about the pay wage bill.

“In none of the meetings I was in with teachers did they ever come back with solid numbers on what they thought was acceptable,” he said. “That’s what we’re working on now.”

Ohio County Schools Service Personnel Association President Jerry Ames, also vice president of the West Virginia Schools Service Personnel Association, seemed optimistic a deal could be reached that would keep the school employees on the job.

“I think there’s some good things going to happen,” he said.