CHARLESTON W.Va. — Teachers and school service personnel joined hands to form a human chain around the state Capitol grounds Monday, the eighth day of a statewide strike.

The educators formed a similar chain inside the building as a symbol of unity for all 55 county school districts. Raleigh County school cook Debbie Pence said it was a powerful moment.

“We had a prayer, we sang and marched together,” Pence said. “It gives me chills just talking about it right here, so I know how I felt in there and I think the majority of the people felt that way also.”

The outdoor chain stretched from California Avenue, down the Kanawha Boulevard and toward the state Culture Center.

Many teachers were forced to wait outside the Capitol due to high capacity issues. No other visitors were allowed inside Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, thousands of teachers packed the halls inside to continue their push for better pay and benefits.

As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, several West Virginia school districts announced closures for Tuesday.

Patricia Fortner, a cook at Stratton Elementary in Beckley, said she doesn’t see an end in sight. She said she thinks the strike will continue for the rest of the week.

“It doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to solve the issue,” she said of state lawmakers. “It’s so easy to pass that (pay raise) bill. They just don’t want to do it.”

The cooks said they worry about their students just like teachers do. Kay Glover, a cook in Park Middle School in Beckley, said it’s been a difficult eight days.

“I got 23 years in the system. I want to go back and feed my kids. I worry about them. No body realized just what the cooks do,” she said.

Fortner agreed.

“Those are our kids too. We see them every day. We love them. We know their struggles and we take them home with us to. Our job don’t stop right there at the lunch line,” she said.

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