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Cabell County eliminates five-day option through at least first half of the year

HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Board of Education adopted the statewide color-code re-entry system Tuesday evening with some tweaks, ditching the five-day option for at least the first half of the academic year and instead implementing a blended option.

Under the new re-entry plan, students will return to school Sept. 8, so long as the county does not enter into “code red,” but on a blended, two-day basis.

This differs from the plan released last month by the district and the state’s guidelines implemented by the county previously, which were reconsidered after facing backlash from concerned parents, students and staff.

“Being able to take the opportunity to respond to concern from our community, our staff, to be able to seek additional guidance, it has all gone into the revisions,” Superintendent Ryan Saxe said. “We have utilized the guidance from the West Virginia Department of Education, the state (Department of Health and Human Resources), our local health department, the CDC guidance, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and even those have been evolving over time — and so as they evolve, so do we.”

The implementation of the blended model will reduce classroom size by about half, and most classrooms will house about eight to 12 students at any given time.

Under the former guidelines, students who chose the blended option would be in the same classroom as those who chose the five-day model, which was a common concern for stakeholders, Saxe said.

During the first week of school, students with the last names A-K will attend Tuesday and Wednesday, while students with last names beginning with L-Z will attend Thursday and Friday. On Sept. 14, the first group of students will attend Monday and Tuesday, and the second group will attend Thursday and Friday, allowing cleaning to be done on Wednesday. Staff will still report regularly on remote days.

The district also approved a more comprehensive mask policy, which will require face coverings to be worn at all times for grades 3-12 and for adults; it will be strongly encouraged for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade.

At the end of 2020, Saxe said officials will re-evaluate whether or not to implement the guidelines through the start of the next semester.

If the county’s cases are in the “green,” meaning three or fewer cases per 100,000 on a rolling seven-day average, they would have to remain that way for at least two weeks before students could return to a traditional, five-day model.

Students who chose the virtual option will not be affected by the changes, and those students who chose in-person options would likely only enter into an online-only scenario if the district entered into a “red” or possibly “orange” phase.

Saxe said the district was also able to hire a full-time nurse for every school in the district, and the board approved a partnership with Marshall Health to employ Dr. Andrea Lauffer, M.D., licensed in internal medicine and pediatrics, as Cabell’s chief health officer.

“I think being able to have someone with her level of expertise serving is absolutely invaluable,” Saxe said. “And I am so thrilled with the board’s blessing to utilize her counsel and the expertise she brings to the school district.”

The district will work with Lauffer in decisions regarding the accuracy of the color-code system, and Saxe said he has the authority to close schools if health officials feel there is an outbreak situation not being addressed in the area.

“Any time we, along with collaboration of our chief health officer and the state, if we see an uptick or something that’s becoming a little more concerning, I do have the authority to go ahead and close a school or specific schools for the district should it be required,” he said.

The full plan for re-entry can be found online at

Marshall to allow fans at football games this fall

UNTINGTON — With the season opener less than two weeks away, Marshall University football fans finally got the news they’d been waiting months to hear.

On Tuesday afternoon, Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick announced that Marshall football will have fans in attendance at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for games in 2020.

Tuesday’s announcement came after consultation with several different entities, including school health officials as well as those at the local and state levels who are working with COVID-19 protocols and safety guidelines.

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Epic rail journey helped WV play key role in suffrage amendment’s passage 100 years ago

CHARLESTON — After a century of struggle and decades of legislative setbacks, the right of American women to vote became the law of the land 100 years ago when U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed a proclamation certifying the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Despite the gravity of the event, the signing took place at 8 a.m. without speeches, photo opportunities or even an audience — behind the closed doors of Colby’s Washington, D.C., home.

The leaders of the nation’s two largest suffrage groups had asked to be on hand for the signing, along with delegations from their organizations and newsreel camera crews. Colby declined the requests, according to the National Constitution Center, saying that work already done to ratify the constitutional amendment in the 36 states needed to enact it “was more important than feeding the movie cameras” with a staged signing ceremony.

Work leading to votes supporting the amendment in Tennessee and West Virginia, two of the last three states needed give it legal standing, was certainly more dramatic than Colby’s signing of the document on Aug. 26, 1920.

Eight days earlier, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify, giving the amendment the three-fourths majority of state votes required for adoption. While the Tennessee Senate quickly voted in favor of women’s suffrage, debate dragged on for weeks in its House of Representatives, where votes of 42-42 were reached twice before the amendment passed by a one-vote margin.

That ratification victory was attributed to a letter 24-year-old freshman Rep. Harry T. Burns, the youngest man in the General Assembly, received from his mother on the morning of the final vote. “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage,” she wrote, “and don’t keep them in doubt.” Burns, among those who voted against the amendment before receiving the letter from home, heeded his mother’s advice and voted for the amendment, casting the single “aye” vote needed to break the deadlock.

Back in Washington, Colby could not certify ratification of the 19th Amendment until official documentation of Tennessee’s ratification could be examined. It arrived on a train from Nashville at 4 a.m. Aug. 26, 1920. Colby had a staff attorney review the papers before certifying that the ratification was official four hours later.

Trains also played a key role in delivering the one vote West Virginia needed to become the 34th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. An epic 2,500-mile rail journey, one leg of it aboard a chartered train, was required to bring a pro-suffrage state senator back to Charleston from a California vacation in time to break a tie vote on the ratification issue before a special legislative session expired.

West Virginia Gov. John Cornwell ordered the session to convene on Feb. 27, 1920, for what he said was “the purpose of passing the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the federal Constitution, enfranchising women.” By the time the session got underway in Charleston, 32 states had already ratified the amendment, seven had rejected it and four others had, for varying reasons, opted not to vote. Oklahoma became the 33rd state to ratify on Feb. 28.

While suffrage supporters had support from both Republican and Democratic party leadership both nationally and at the state level, the outcome of West Virginia’s ratification vote remained uncertain.

The first attempt to enact legislation enabling women’s suffrage in West Virginia took place in 1867, through a bill introduced by Sen. Samuel Young, a Methodist minister from Pocahontas County. It was universally ignored by Young’s colleagues and never taken up. Two years later, Young introduced a second bill, this one designed to encourage Congress to take up the suffrage issue on the national level. This bill survived long enough for vote on the Senate floor, where it was defeated 12-8.

By the 1890s, suffragist clubs were active across northern West Virginia and the Northern Panhandle, and began to spread into the more rural counties to the south. Their influence was felt in Charleston, where in 1913, the House of Delegates passed a bill calling for a state referendum on women’s suffrage, which failed to clear the Senate. The same bill cleared both houses in 1915, but was soundly defeated by a public referendum vote in which nearly three out of four voters cast ballots against the proposal. Only the state’s northernmost counties — Brooke and Hancock — voted for women’s suffrage.

“The suffragists in the state were demoralized by that vote,” said Renate Pore, a member of the Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women chapter and an organizer of 100th Anniversary of Suffrage in West Virginia events. “But it was absolutely essential to get West Virginia in the ‘yes’ column in 1920. Virginia had already voted ‘no’ and other southern states were expected to do the same.”

Carrie Chapman Catt, who succeeded Susan B. Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), personally contacted Gov. Cornwell in an effort to have him bring 19th Amendment ratification to a vote in 1920 by calling the special session. At that time, the Legislature normally met every other year, and 1920 was an “off” year.

For the 12 days of the special session, delegations from several suffragist organizations established headquarters in Charleston hotels, from which they lobbied legislators at the nearby State Capitol, then located in downtown Charleston. Anti-suffrage activists, including a delegation from the Maryland Legislature, which had just shot down ratification, did the same.

On March 1, a vote on ratification by the Senate ended in a 14-14 tie, prompting President Woodrow Wilson to send telegrams the following day to the two Democrats casting “no” votes — Sens. J.E. Frazier of Putnam County and Milton Burr of Jefferson — urging them to support ratification.

On March 3, the House approved ratification with a 47-40 vote, while a second vote by the Senate ended in another 14-14 deadlock. The lack of a positive ratification vote was dispiriting to suffrage supporters.

“Equal suffrage very doubtful this year,” read a headline appearing in The Charleston Gazette following the second tie vote. The two tie votes “seriously endanger” ratification of the amendment in time for women to vote in the November election, according to a wire story by Herbert L. Grimm. “The coming presidential election was intended to mark the success of the movement for equal rights launched in America more than 100 years ago.”

But that mood was at least partially dispelled when it was reported that Republican Sen. Jesse Bloch, of Wheeling, had been contacted in California where he was vacationing. Bloch, the millionaire son of Samuel Bloch, co-founder of the company that produced Mail Pouch chewing tobacco, told reporters he favored ratifying the 19th Amendment.

The next day, Lenna Yost, president of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, confirmed that Bloch was “heartily in favor of suffrage.” He was also on his way to Charleston to break the deadlocked Senate vote, she said.

In the days that followed, The Charleston Gazette reported that the national Republican organization had arranged to have a chartered plane and off-duty mail plane pilot standing by in Chicago to fly the senator and his wife to Charleston once their train arrived in the Windy City. Later, the Republican organization was said to have chartered a train to take the Blochs from Chicago to Cincinnati, to connect with a commercial passenger train for the final leg to Charleston, when it turned out Mrs. Bloch had no interest in flying.

According to “History of Women’s Suffrage, 1900 to 1920,” it was later determined that a private donor, Captain Victor Heinze of Cincinnati, arranged the chartered train to hasten the senator’s arrival in Charleston.

Cornwell and Senate President Charles Sinsel, R-Taylor, managed to keep the special session from adjourning while waiting for Bloch to arrive. Meanwhile, the cross-continent trip by rail and possible airplane to break the tie in the suffrage vote captured national attention.

“Senator Bloch appears to hold the fate of suffrage in West Virginia in the hollow of his hand,” The New York Times reported as the tobacco magnate sped toward Charleston.

“An airplane flight to hasten State Senator Bloch’s arrival in Charleston was arranged by Republican managers,” The Associated Press reported. Bloch needed to arrive in the West Virginia capital by Wednesday, March 10, “to block the special session from ending.”

The Wheeling Daily News added a local embellishment, positing that the exact location of Bloch’s whereabouts was not publicly released “to prevent kidnapping,” presumably by anti-suffrage activists.

Another political drama unfolded in the Statehouse while the Blochs were veering eastward when A.W. Montgomery, a senator from Logan County who had resigned and moved to Illinois months before the special session, attempted to be seated in an effort to break the tie in favor of the anti-suffragists.

Cornwell produced Montgomery’s letter of resignation and other documents verifying his departure from office, and the Senate voted not to allow him to participate in the ratification vote.

Finally, at 2:25 a.m. March 10, Bloch’s train arrived in Charleston, where he was greeted by suffrage leaders and escorted to the Kanawha Hotel, where he caught a few hours of sleep before appearing at the Statehouse.

“I am glad I will have the pleasure of casting my vote for the suffrage amendment,” he told a Gazette reporter before checking in. “I also want to praise the 14 fellow members of the Senate who have stood together solidly to hold the special session together until my arrival. It is they who deserve any credit for whatever good may come of my vote.”

Bloch was traveling light, according to the Gazette reporter, arriving at the hotel with only an overnight bag, a thermos of coffee and a bag of golf clubs. His wife remained in Chicago to rest up from the rail journey.

Later that day, Bloch walked to the Capitol from the hotel at the appointed hour of 2 p.m. When seen entering the building, a burst of cheers and applause broke out from a gallery packed with onlookers, most of them women “who occupied every possible point of vantage, while men stood in the window frames and on radiators,” according to a Gazette account.

“He was wearing a dark double-breasted business suit of a stylish cut, tortoise shell glasses, and incessantly smoked cigarettes using a long, amber holder,” wrote the Gazette scribe.

After casting the tie-breaking vote, there was more cheering and celebration.

“To me, the West Virginia victory means that 70 years of struggle are over, and that the women of America are enfranchised,” said NAWSA president Catt at the time.

“I think without the win in West Virginia, suffragists would have lost the momentum for ratification in 1920,” Pore said.

“The importance of West Virginia’s vote can also be measured in how far the national leadership went to bring Jesse Bloch back from California by proposing to have a mail carrier plane pick him up in Chicago. It was also unprecedented for the governor and president of the Senate to keep the Senate in town whey they had already twice defeated the amendment. Yes, I think West Virginia as the 34th state to ratify was a key to the amendment.”

Justice says marching bands will perform at football games after all

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday afternoon that school marching bands would be permitted to perform at extracurricular activities after all, following an announcement from the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission that said they’d be barred from performing at the events due to COVID-19.

“Yesterday, the WVSSAC announced that our marching bands would not be able to perform at extracurricular activities this fall,” Justice said Tuesday in a release. “This decision was made without my input.”

Justice said health officials worked with the WVSSAC and the Department of Education to develop new guidelines in order for students in marching band to perform at football games throughout the upcoming season.

The new guidelines call for designation of a separate seating area for band members (not in the bleachers), a separate seating area for band parents and families, social distancing (a diamond formation is recommended) and face coverings to be worn.

Additional requirements suggest only the percussion section plays during the game, encourages the use of instrument bell covers, and call for separate entrances and exits to the facility for band members and their families.

Justice said keeping students socially distanced and as safe as possible was key.

Wayne High School color guard member Baylee Parsons said the initial ruling made her feel as though members of the organization were “nonessential.”

“Please remember that when you make your posts and comments regarding the decision made by the WVSSAC this evening, they are still taking your children’s interests and feelings into consideration and considering them ‘essential,’” she said Monday. “However, for the parents and fans of marching band members all around the state, their children are being considered ‘nonessential.’ They had already taken away our competitions. The only bit of hope we had left for our season was to perform on the sidelines and at halftime. We want to play, too.”

Many people in Wayne County as well as statewide were surprised when news of the initial WVSSAC guidelines prohibiting band performances at games was released, wondering how it would affect band members.

“Many times those involved in music and arts in general are pushed to the bottom and are already struggling to get the same level of attention and recognition of other organizations,” parent Vanessa Moser said. “Being able to perform on the sidelines and at halftime was these kids’ last chance at having a season, and now (that) decision has made some of them feel as though they are ‘nonessential.’ They are using the same terminology that we as adults have been using throughout this pandemic to show that they feel like band is being considered not as important as other organizations.”

Moser said when the news originally broke of band not being able to congregate at games, it caused turmoil within her household with her two children.

“My sophomore daughter is a cheerleader, and though there are restrictions, she is permitted to be on the sidelines at each football game,” Moser said. “However, now that we have this ruling, my junior daughter who is on the color guard will not receive the opportunity to live out her season.”

Moser said her daughter in the band felt as though it was not fair that her sister as well as other athletes would be able to play, but she would not be able to perform as a band member.

“It was tough, but I had to explain to her that it isn’t this team or that organization against each other. The band should be able to perform — period — and that has nothing to do with the others,” she said.

“There is already a stigma that surrounds band, and this decision, if held up, only helps to enforce that these children do not matter. They have already had so much taken away from them, from budget constraints limiting them to home games to their competition season being gone due to COVID-19, so I really hate to see them lose their season as a whole.”

The WVSSAC says they will continue to monitor the situation as new data on the virus is released for all controlled activities.