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updated: 3/7/2018 4:48 PM

Back to school: West Virginia teachers return to classroom

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  • Students have breakfast at Stonewall Jackson Middle School on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia's teachers and students are reuniting in their classrooms after a walkout that closed schools statewide. State teachers celebrated on Tuesday as they won a 5 percent salary increase.

    Students have breakfast at Stonewall Jackson Middle School on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia's teachers and students are reuniting in their classrooms after a walkout that closed schools statewide. State teachers celebrated on Tuesday as they won a 5 percent salary increase.
    Associated Press

  • Students arrive as classes resume on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia's teachers and students are reuniting in their classrooms after a walkout that closed schools statewide. State teachers celebrated on Tuesday after they won a 5 percent salary increase.

    Students arrive as classes resume on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia's teachers and students are reuniting in their classrooms after a walkout that closed schools statewide. State teachers celebrated on Tuesday after they won a 5 percent salary increase.
    Associated Press

  • Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state employee pay by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers,  after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state employee pay by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers, after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • State senators acknowledge the cheers of teachers and school personnel after the passage of a bill to increase pay of state employee by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers,  after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    State senators acknowledge the cheers of teachers and school personnel after the passage of a bill to increase pay of state employee by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers, after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state employee pay by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers,  after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state employee pay by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers, after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Senate President Mitch Carmichael stands as the Senate approves a bill to increase state employee pay by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers,  after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Senate President Mitch Carmichael stands as the Senate approves a bill to increase state employee pay by 5 percent at the capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The lawmakers unanimously approved the pay raises for teachers and troopers, after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state's schools for nine days. (Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Teachers celebrate after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Senate Republicans announced they reached a tentative deal to end a statewide teachers' strike by giving them 5 percent raises in Charleston, W.Va., Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

    Teachers celebrate after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Senate Republicans announced they reached a tentative deal to end a statewide teachers' strike by giving them 5 percent raises in Charleston, W.Va., Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
    Associated Press

  • West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, left, and House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, discuss an agreement reached by a legislative conference committee for a 5 percent pay increase for striking teachers Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va.  Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia’s Republican leaders tentatively agreed Tuesday to end the state’s nine-day teachers' walkout by giving 5 percent raises to not just teachers, but all state workers.

    West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, left, and House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, discuss an agreement reached by a legislative conference committee for a 5 percent pay increase for striking teachers Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia’s Republican leaders tentatively agreed Tuesday to end the state’s nine-day teachers' walkout by giving 5 percent raises to not just teachers, but all state workers.
    Associated Press

  • West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, left, and American Federation of Teachers' West Virginia chapter President Christine Campbell talk to reporters as an agreement was reached by a legislative conference committee for a 5 percent pay increase for striking teachers Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va.  Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia’s Republican leaders tentatively agreed Tuesday to end the state’s nine-day teachers' walkout by giving 5 percent raises to not just teachers, but all state workers.

    West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, left, and American Federation of Teachers' West Virginia chapter President Christine Campbell talk to reporters as an agreement was reached by a legislative conference committee for a 5 percent pay increase for striking teachers Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia’s Republican leaders tentatively agreed Tuesday to end the state’s nine-day teachers' walkout by giving 5 percent raises to not just teachers, but all state workers.
    Associated Press

  • Surrounded by Union leaders, Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Surrounded by Union leaders, Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

    Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5 percent during a news conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The settlement came on the ninth day of a crippling strike that idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the country. (Craig Hudson /Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
    Associated Press

 
 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At Stonewall Jackson Middle School in West Virginia, students filed past a sign that read: "Welcome back, let's roll."

It's been nine school days without class. Students returned Wednesday to Stonewall Jackson and other schools across West Virginia, a day after the state's teachers wangled a 5 percent pay increase from their elected leaders. Their victory came after walking off the job in all 55 counties of this poor Appalachian mountain state to protest some of the lowest pay for their profession in the country.

Stonewall Jackson teacher Hannah Silverman said she was "pumped" to be back at work.

"I was like a kid on the first day of school last night, I literally couldn't sleep," Silverman said. "So, I was really excited, this is my passion. I want to be here and I've been excited since we found out yesterday."

After the long layoff, Stonewall Jackson student Angel Davis said she tried to persuade her sister that getting back to school was a good thing.

"I was happy," said Davis. "I said I want my education."

Despite losing the school days, the teachers had support from parents and students. Never mind the difficulties some parents had arranging for child care and finding activities for their idle children.

Nannette Higginbotham had mixed feelings as she said goodbye to her daughter on her first day back at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes.

"I love having her home, but I'm glad they're getting back to school and getting it over with," she said.

At the Village of Barboursville Elementary School, teachers traded holding picket signs for ones such as "I Missed You" to welcome students back. The teachers stood outside as their charges arrived Wednesday.

"I'm sure not only was it stressful for us as educators, (but for) parents and the students," special education teacher Jamie Robinette told WSAZ-TV. "The students want to be here. We want to be here. I'm so glad that it's over."

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has asked county superintendents to be flexible as they decide how to meet the requirement of having 180 days of school, saying students "have suffered enough." He wants families to have time for summer vacation and doesn't want summer feeding programs placed in jeopardy if classes go too far into June.

Some superintendents are mulling whether to cut short spring break, typically in late March, although families often have vacations already scheduled during that time.

The paralyzing walkout shut 277,000 students out of classrooms, forced their parents to scramble for child care and cast a national spotlight on government dysfunction in West Virginia. These 35,000 public school employees had gone four years without a salary increase.

From outside the state, GoFundMe campaigns bought pizza for the striking teachers and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their immediate needs such as lost pay and child care.

Embracing the hashtag "55strong" in a nod to the number of counties in the state, teachers and school service personnel gathered at the Capitol daily in the thousands, waiting in long lines in the cold and rain as they remained steadfast in their demandsd.

Their euphoria after winning the fight carried over with them into the schools on Wednesday.

At Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg, teachers lined up to greet students heading to their lockers.

"We were giving them high fives and chanting 'You matter to us!'" teacher Connie Buffey told The Exponent Telegram.

___

Associated Press writers Robert Ray in Charleston, West Virginia, and Michael Virtanen in Morgantown, West Virginia, contributed to this report.

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