Students’ needs addressed despite ongoing strike

REACTING — A crowd of educators, parents and community volunteers flowed into the John D. Rockefeller Career Center in New Cumberland Monday to assist Superintendent Tim Woodward in efforts to establish locations to provide meals and activities for students during the ongoing statewide teacher strike. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — While they might be picketing, area school officials still want to make sure students are able to receive meals, socialization and some learning opportunities as the statewide teacher strike continues.

Hancock County Schools Superintendent Tim Woodward gathered a crowd of educators, parents and community volunteers at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center Monday to collect suggestions of sites, activities and food opportunities.

Woodward explained he put out the call for assistance Sunday after returning from Charleston.

“My phone went dead from the number of responses,” Woodward said.

Sites being offered include the former Boys and Girls Club building, the Weirton Christian Center and Krazy ‘Bout Sportz, all in Weirton, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with lunch provided. Other locations, to be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., are the New Cumberland City Building, the Nazarene Church in New Manchester, the Anchor House in Chester and the Wells Building in Newell. Breakfast and lunch will be provided at those sites.

“There will be teachers rotating in and out of each facility, as well as principals,” Woodward said, noting he also has spoken with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department about having the county’s prevention resource officers stop by periodically at each site.

Those assisting at the sites will be volunteering their time, Woodward said, adding sites will not be on school property.

Food service will be provided through C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. and other local organizations, with lunches available for pickup at the Chester, New Manchester and New Cumberland volunteer fire departments.

“We’re going to have pick-up points,” Woodward said, adding some delivery options also are available.

“We’re going to feed anyone who wants to be fed.”

The Hancock County services are for students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Brooke County school officials have established several sites for students to come for lunch, a snack and activities between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays. The sites are Beech Bottom Community Christian Church, Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church, Wellsburg Fire Department, the former St. Anthony School in Follansbee, Open Door Baptist Church on Eldersville Road, Promise of Victory Church of God in Colliers and the Millsop Community Center.

The move is intended to help working parents who must arrange for babysitters or day care for their children when school is canceled.

Depending on the location, school administrators and volunteers could be found Monday playing board games, shooting hoops or playing catch with the youth.

“It’s been running really well — plenty of volunteers, including several athletes from Brooke High School,” said Nadine Sweda, principal of Jefferson Primary School, who added about a dozen children turned out for a lunch prepared by members of St. John Catholic Church in Wellsburg. Food also has been prepared by All Saints Greek Orthodox Church and Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church.

Rhonda Combs, Brooke County Schools curriculum director for grades kindergarten through fifth, said several board staff members drove the food to the various sites, which were arranged by Superintendent Toni Paesano Shute on Sunday.

Beginning today, C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. is expected to provide food for the sites. The Weirton-based community action agency has supplied food for after-school programs offered in local schools.

Melissa Salatino, a substitute aide for Brooke County Schools, was in the old gym of St. Anthony School, which was closed years ago, pitching a softball to a girl with a whiffle ball bat.

“It’s good for the kids to get out and do this. I wanted to come and support the kids and also the teachers,” she said.