Community offering to assist families

NEW CUMBERLAND — As teachers and service personnel throughout West Virginia remained on the picket lines seeking better pay and health care, members of the community and local organizations gathered Monday to see what they can do help out the county’s students and parents.

Before a capacity crowd at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center, Hancock County Schools Superintendent Tim Woodward held a special meeting in which community members exchanged ideas on locations throughout the county where students can go for the day for various activities while schools throughout the state remained closed due to the statewide work stoppage, which entered its eighth day Monday.

Woodward’s goals were to make sure parents would be able to go to work, and that students will be able to spend time interacting with other students, while also being able to continue to provide food for the students during the day.

As the meeting started, Woodward discussed what he experienced at the state capitol during the weekend, not knowing when the work stoppage would end, and told the crowd that something had to be done.

“When I was riding home Sunday morning on two hours of sleep and I just come into the capitol and see our teachers in tears, our service personnel in tears, our kids who were down there in tears thought this may go on,” Woodward said. “We got to do something for our kids right now.”

After speaking with the district’s chief financial officer Joseph Campinelli, Woodward said the facilities are insured for students to use, which school board-approved rotating teachers and vounteers will be utilized in the buildings.

Woodward said this program is for students in grades K-5 — and will not be available for Pre-K students, citing particular issues for students’ unsureness in the event certified special neeed teachers may not be available.

“I have been advised that, at this time, I’m going to have the program go K to 5, because I’m just not sure that I am comfortable, and I hate it because I wanted to do it for all of them,” Woodward said.

Parents were asked to call by 7 p.m. Monday so the superintendent and participating organizations could determine the expected level of participation.

Woodward then opened the floor for comment, which representatives of multiple chuches and non-profit organizations announced locations for students to stay including the Swaney Memorial Library in New Cumberland, the Lynn Murray Memorial Public Library in Chester, the Anchor House at Westminster Presbyterian Church, the New Cumberland City Building, Chester City Building, the Newell and Chester United Methodist churches (although not handicap accessible) and many others.

Many of the locations offering space– such as Everyday Church in New Manchester — can handle anywhere between 30-40 children, while the New Cumberland Nazarene Church offered to take in as many as 100 students.

Those who are able to provide food services or provide locations for food pickups included Bless This Child Food Ministries in Newell and the New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department.

Woodward said in the event a student or a family are unable to pick up food at the locations, they will look to provide delivery services to those families.

In addition, several high school sports teams, including both Oak Glen and Weir, and band boosters agreed to volunteer time to work with students.

After the ideas were received, three groups were formed: one to decide locations in the Weirton area; one to decide locations in the Chester, New Cumberland and New Manchester areas; and one to determine food locations.