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Update: Superintendent Paine says he expects WV schools will open

4:37 p.m. 

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine issued a statement today concerning school on March 1, 2018:

“My expectation is that all public schools in West Virginia will be in session on Thursday, March 1, 2018.”

Meanwhile, some counties were already calling off, as conveyed by the @WVSnowDay feed.

2:52 p.m. 

Discussions between the Governor’s Office and the leaders of the state’s three main education-related unions have continued today, the communications directors of the unions said this afternoon.

But although many are wondering if statewide walkouts will continue or whether there will be school on Thursday, there was not yet an answer.

The communications directors of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association read a 1-minute statement this afternoon.

“Those meetings will continue throughout the day, and right now there will be no further comment,” according to the statement.

1:43 p.m. Gov. Jim Justice said he hopes teachers and school service personnel go back to work Thursday and there doesn’t have to be court action to stop them from striking.

“I hope to goodness we don’t get to the point and time where we’re moving toward injunctions and everything else like that, ya know, we don’t need to be doing that,” Justice said Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “For crying out loud, we don’t need to be the number-1 thing on the national nightly news. All this is doing is driving more people away from West Virginia.”

Wednesday was supposed to be a cooling off day for teachers and school service personnel after a four day strike. Justice and education worker union leaders appeared together Tuesday evening and announced a deal of a five percent pay raise for education workers along with task force to work on a permanent fix for PEIA. But many have reacted negatively to the PEIA promise saying they want a permanent fix now.

More than 3,300 people had been checked through capitol security by midday. Many were chanting outside the House and Senate chambers while others were gathered around the entrance to the governor’s office. There are also impromptu meetings taking place with county delegations about the status of if they plan to strike Thursday.

Justice said Wednesday an immediate PIEA fix would be impossible to do.

“Health care is not easily solved and it’s not going to be easily solved tomorrow. Now, if they can’t be happy with what we’ve done thus far then this is going to be one rough ride,” Justice said.

The PEIA Finance Board voted last week to freeze the current health care plan until July 1, 2019 keeping the existing premium and benefit structure in place.

The money for the raise is supposed to come in part from a $58 million revenue adjustment for next fiscal year. Justice sent a letter to the legislature Wednesday officially raising the estimates.

“The strike is not over, in my opinion, and I think a lot of people share that view,” Winfield Elementary School speech pathologist Christine Harrison said. “We did not come all of this way just to be told what someone else has decided for us. We are the union and we respect and love our union leadership but we make up the union.”

Putnam County teacher Lance Sutherland said union members need to keep the heat on.

“We have momentum right now. If it diffused–then can we regain that momentum? I think now is the time that we have to keep pushing until we get some agreement,” Sutherland said.

The governor said he would sign something on the PEIA task force if that’s what the workers want–but he also stressed they need to go back to work on Thursday. He indicated there could be consequences.

“In life we all have consequences–do we not–with every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction,” Justice said.

“Put it in writing,” Putnam County education worker Tim Toler said. “Let’s put something that we know is concrete and is going to be there and don’t just give us your word because we don’t trust you.”

Also during his appearance on “Talkline,” Justice once again shot down rumors that he had resigned or was thinking about it.

“When is this silliness going to stop? I didn’t sign up for this to just stop when it gets a little bit tough. I’m in this for the long haul. The rumors about me resigning are totally unfounded and without truth. The people that are circulating this information are being counterproductive. We need to stick to the truth and the important business at hand.”

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