HURRICANE, W.Va. — While West Virginia public school teachers and school service workers spent Tuesday on the picket line and packing the state Capitol, one county remained open to students.
Putnam County Schools was the only district in the state not to call off classes Tuesday for a near-statewide strike, although not many attended.
At nearly every school, parking lots were nearly empty. A few cars trickled in to drop students off, but no buses were seen.
“Not one school bus left the bus terminal that we know of,” said Leah Thomas, a school bus driver in Putnam County, Tuesday morning.
At Hurricane High School, only about 30 of the 1,237 students in grades nine through 12 crossed the picket line.
Glenn Whited, a 16-year-old junior, said he showed up because he didn’t want an unexcused absence on his attendance record.
“I came to school because they said it would be open and I have to keep my attendance record up,” he said.
However, Whited left for the day at about 8:30 a.m., he said, after his parents called the school to allow him to go home.
“Most all of us there were trying to contact our parents to call the school and get us signed out because we are kind of just sitting around,” he said. “They told us to work on our homework assignments, but there are no teachers so most students here just wanted to go home today.”
Rhonda Moncada, a teacher and a parent in Putnam County, says lots of students at Hurricane High School were on the picket line to show their support for their teachers, school bus drivers and other school service personnel.
“I think many of these high school students understand this situation,” she said.
One of those students standing in the picket line at Hurricane was Moncada’s daughter, Olivia, a 16-year-old junior at the school.
“Public school teachers have really impacted my life in so many positive ways,” Olivia Moncada said. “They have helped me become the person I am today and are helping me to prepare for the future as well. They are amazing and I, and many of my friends, are here to show our love and support for them as well as all the other school personnel that help us every day we are at school.”
Since Putnam County was open, teachers and school personnel not at work on Tuesday will not be paid for the day, according to Rhonda Moncada.
“We’re the only county out of 55 counties that will not be getting paid, but we are doing this for our public education students and not for the money,” she said. “If funding is diverted away from our public schools it will only hurt students that need more funding and support, not less.”
School system spokeswoman Micah Osborne told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that students who did attend classes on Tuesday were continuing “day-to-day” activities. She said 25 percent of staff and 10 percent of students were in school Tuesday. Teachers picketing outside Putnam schools on Tuesday morning, however, said the numbers of students inside were much lower.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.