MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County Superintendent Dr. Frank Devono now has the authority to close schools in the event of a work stoppage.

The Monongalia County Board of Education unanimously supported authorization during an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon.

A work stoppage is planned for at least Thursday and Friday this week, announced by statewide teacher’s unions and associations last weekend. In the event of the closure, all local activities would be cancelled.

There remains some debate on WVSSAC-sponsored events, which are scheduled to go on as planned. Girl’s Basketball Sectional semifinals are scheduled Tuesday and sectional finals are scheduled Thursday, during the expected first day of the work stoppage.

“The WVSSAC will continue to have their programs, their sectionals, their regionals,” Devono said.

Board member Ron Lytle expressed concern that an empty school building on Thursday — potentially in Buckhannon — represents a safety concern for students.

“Sports has to go on?” he said. “I do not agree — if the schools are closing across the state — the activities of all schools across the state should be closed.”

Devono said he agreed, but wanted to attempt to come up with a workaround so that high school athletes are not unduly punished in the event of a work stoppage.

“Whichever teams wins tonight, we’re going to have to reach out to (transportation) and say, is there a driver who’s willing to take them that night?” Devono said. “If not, we’re going to have to ask our parents to do that. We’re going to have to ask the coach if they’re willing to do it as well.”

There are other obstacles that could potentially impact the game, Devono said.

“Whether or not there is a picket line in front of Upshur County on Thursday night is one issue, and whether or not the coach will cross that is an issue,” Devono said.

PEIA’s Finance Board froze the public workers health care plan earlier Tuesday, a directive by Gov. Jim Justice to come up with a temporary solution to teacher complaints over eroding benefits packages that have become more expensive, but have not included additional benefits.

The work stoppage is expected to begin Thursday.

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