West Virginia News

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►  West Virginia school enrollment drops for 5th straight year

Education officials say public school enrollment in West Virginia has fallen for the fifth consecutive year.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports enrollment fell about 2,460 students in the 2017-18 school year to 270,708. That’s down 4.1 percent from five years ago.

Enrollment numbers from the current school year are used to set levels in the state school aid funding formula for the following fiscal year. Generally, the formula automatically reduces funding for county public school systems that lose enrollment.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Kristen Anderson says figures for individual counties and schools will be posted online later.

►  WV higher education stats trending upward, chancellor says

Remedial courses ended up harming college students as much as helping them, so the Higher Education Policy Commission changed its policy to correct that problem.

“We called it the quicksand of higher education,” HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill told the West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday. “Only 13 percent of students who took the remedial courses ever graduated. That was unacceptable to me.”

Hill made his comments to the board as he gave his update on the state’s higher education initiative.

He said students who were unprepared for the academic requirements of college used up financial aid for remedial classes that provided them with no credits. So, the HEPC eliminated the no-credit classes and instead enrolled students in credit classes and provides support, he said.

Hill told the state school board the college-going rate in West Virginia is creeping up, but it’s not high enough. At present, about 30 percent of West Virginians have a two- or four-year degree or have other training after high school, but projections show that number should be around 51 percent to meet the needs of the economy.

Last year, the state’s public colleges and universities awarded 18,521 two- and four-year degrees, Hill said.

“We’ve been breaking the record every year,” but it’s still not enough, he said.

On the bright side, the number of STEM degrees beings awarded is up, student loan default rates are falling, retention rates are up and one-third of students who graduate have no student loan debt, Hill said.

When asked about the Promise Scholarship program, which is administered by the HEPC, Hill said about 53 percent of its recipients are in the West Virginia workforce four years after high school graduation. But many Promise recipients go on to graduate school, law school or medical school, Hill said. Thus, seven years after high school graduation, about 80 percent of Promise recipients are working in the state, he said.

Also at the meeting, Terry Harless, the board’s chief financial officer, said the board will ask for less money in state aid for the 2018-19 school year than it is receiving this year. All agencies submit their budget requests for the coming fiscal year to the governor by September 1, Harless said. The school funding formula is based on enrollment during the previous school year, but the board will not have final enrollment figures for this year tabulated until around December 15, at which time it will revise its budget request, Harless said.

The amount of money the board has received from the state aid formula has declined by about $44 million in the past two years because of declining enrollment, Harless said.

Amy Willard, the board’s executive director of school finance, said declining enrollment will likely lead to 137 fewer teachers funded by the state aid formula next school year.

Willard also said five of the state’s 55 county school systems ran deficits last year. This year that number is down to two, she said.  ~~  Jim Ross ~~

►  I-68 extension Seen as crucial to Northern Panhandle development

State Senator Charles Clements knows it’s going to take more than luck to get Interstate 68 extended from Morgantown to Moundsville.

Clements, R-Wetzel, and a member of the West Virginia 2/I-68 Authority, said it will take money — lots of money — to extend the interstate, but he figures if it pans out, it would be a shot-in-the-arm for the Northern Panhandle economy.

“It’s going to take a lot of help from Washington,” Clements said, adding, “It will cost well over $1 billion to build this road, just in West Virginia. But if we want to grow, we have to make an investment in our state — if we don’t make the investment, who will?

Clements said existing infrastructure “wasn’t built to handle the traffic we have today,” pointing out the interstate highway system was the brainchild of the Eisenhower administration.

“Development of the natural gas industry in this area is definitely going to produce a lot more traffic,” he said.

“With development of the (proposed) cracker in Dilles Bottom, Ohio, there’s going to be an increase in traffic not only from it, but from what, hopefully, will be a lot of downstream activity that would come as a result of that plant. They’re also looking (at this area) for development of an ethane storage hub in North Central West Virginia — Doddridge, Tyler, Ritchie areas — it’s going to spur so much more activity,” Clement said.

West Virginia’s recently approved road bond included millions for much-needed repairs to I-70 across Ohio County from the Pennsylvania line to the Ohio River. Clements said that’s a good start.

“Too often, we’ve been reactive,” he said. “In case of infrastructure like this, we need to be proactive and work on I-68, get it in place so it can handle the extra traffic before we have more problems with I-70. If we wait until everything’s happened and then try building the infrastructure to support it, we’re not going to get the industry we want because we’re not ready for it. We need to get ready for it because other parts of the country are ready.”

Eric Peters, a member of the WV 2/I-68 Authority and executive director of the Tyler County Development Authority, said West Virginia needs developable sites, “and a highway placed in the right spot can open up sites. We desperately need development sites, so I’m hopeful that’s a consideration when (they’re) selecting a site.

“We’re supportive of extending I-68, whichever corridor the Division of Highways (might) choose,” he said, pointing out current thinking would be for an extension, should it happen, to follow the U.S. 250 corridor. “There were other corridors initially studied that would bring it on a due-west path and connect to WV 2. But from an economic standpoint, the corridor along 250 would probably be the least expensive.”

Peters figures they need to take a holistic approach, figure out how to get the most bang for their buck, “where does it do the greatest economic benefit and how can we balance costs.

“If we’re going to spend that much money, let’s look at how we can open up areas that can be developed,” he said. “I think that’s an important consideration.”

Peters pointed out WV 2 “has been a primary economic corridor for 200 years, but it was neglected for 90, I think.

“I think the businesses that thrived along (the) WV 2 Ohio River corridor were taken for granted somewhat. They thrived for decades on an obsolete highway. Going back into the 1950s and 1960s, I think planners looked at other areas that seemed (to be in need) and concentrated their efforts there.

“Now we have an opportunity to address that neglect and get roads (addressed), whether it’s I-68 or WV 2, and get them up to modern standards. We need desperately to be able to get products to market, but we also need to be able to demonstrate a commitment to infrastructure support for modern businesses.”

Peters said a workable highway strategy will incorporate safety, economic development potential and efficient transportation.

Clements, meanwhile, said the I-68 extension would probably entail “60-70 miles of highway. That’s a major thing,” adding it’s important “to be thinking ahead, not waiting until something happens and then wondering why it did or didn’t happen.

“While we don’t necessarily want to run ahead and build a road, we need to be looking ahead at what must be done to build it ... so as soon as we forecast what we think will happen, then we can start moving dirt,” he said. “This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight.

“We need Washington to start moving on it, so that we can plan,” Clements said. “This is too big a project, too expensive for the state of West Virginia to totally fund. It would take a whole year’s highway money plus to do the West Virginia part.”

►  West Virginia considering work requirements for Medicaid

West Virginia is considering adding employment requirements for roughly 170,000 people covered by a component of the Affordable Care Act.

State Health and Human Resources Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples said Friday the requirement would focus on able-bodied people if enacted.

Around 70 percent of Medicaid-expansion households include a working adult and the requirement would apply to the other 30 percent. It would “align” Medicaid with state programs that already have work requirements.

Federal officials said in a letter to governors that states are encouraged to submit waivers from a section of the Social Security Act under which the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services can waive certain Medicaid rules.

West Virginia anticipates it will submit a waiver application next year. Other state programs are being studied.

►  Food pantry opening in West Virginia this week

Marshall University’s Department of Dietetics is opening a food pantry in West Virginia this week.

The food pantry for university faculty, staff, students and community members will open Tuesday at the Department of Dietetics building in downtown Huntington.

The director of the department’s nutrition education program, Alicia Fox, says research indicates nearly half of all college students have limited access to food. She says the downtown space will have free shuttles from campus to make it available to all students.

The pantry will be open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursdays. The pantry will accept non-perishable food donations as well as monetary donations. To make a donation, contact or .

►  West Virginia city sees most homicides in 3 decades

With seven weeks still left in the year, police officials in Huntington say the city has surpassed the number of homicides for all of 2016.

Huntington has seen 14 homicide investigations opened in 2017. The 12 homicides last year were the most in Huntington since 1985.

Police Capt. Hank Dial says the odds of being killed at random in Huntington are very low. Eight of the city’s homicides this year were drug related and three involved domestic violence.

Nine homicides have occurred since July 01.

►  Donors funding protection to keep police dogs safe

Like other officers of the law, the dogs of K-9 units need specialized equipment that helps keep them safe while performing hazardous duties, so Bluefield’s business community has stepped up and paid for customized defense.

Generous donors have helped the Bluefield Police Department’s K-9 dogs by providing the money needed to give each of them a new customized protective vest.

K-9 dogs Thor, Ace and Nico now have new vests which better suit their needs, Sgt. B.W. Copenhaver said. He demonstrated one of the new vests by putting it on his K-9 partner, Thor. Each vest, tailored to the dog now wearing it, cost approximately $2,000 apiece.

“This (donations) allowed us to get three vests for our dogs,“ Copenhaver said. “We’re going to be able to get a fourth vest for another dog. He’s in training right now, and should be ready to go in February.“

Unlike other vests, the new protective gear is lighter and more flexible, he added. Other available K-9 vests are often too heavy for the dogs; exercises with the older vests showed that the dogs had to carry too much weight, but Bluefield’s K-9s can wear these new vests for an entire 12-hour shift.

The manufacturer’s representatives visited the department to measure each K-9, then returned later returned to give the dogs a trial fit and see if any adjustments had to be made. The vests offer good ballistic protection and they’re resistant to cutting, plus the dogs are less likely to overheat in them, Copenhaver said.

Contributors including the Bill Cole Auto Mall, Citizens Building and Supply Center, Cole Chevrolet-Cadillac, Cole Harley Davidson, Douglas Equipment, Grant’s Supermarket, Dickie and Julie Johnson, K&K Music Company, Mercer Funeral Home, and the firm of Brewster, Morhous & Cameron provided the necessary funds for the vests.

“It’s a big expense, so for them to come up and say we want to do this for our dogs is awesome,“ Copenhaver said. “We’ve been blessed. Every time we’ve needed something for the dogs, they’ve stepped up.“

►  Kermit fireman delivers baby at home in Mingo County

It’s a moment that has played out in movies and on television — emergency first responders go to a scene with a woman in labor and deliver a baby.

But that played out in real life last Sunday morning for the Kermit Volunteer Fire Department. The firefighters and EMTs were sent out by 911 dispatchers to a remote area on Jennie’s Creek near the Mingo-Wayne County line.

“Upon arrival, we found Ashley Copley in active labor with baby crowning,“ said firefighter Mara Maynard. The ambulance could not reach the residence, which is located on Billy’s Branch Road.

Firefighter and EMT Lieutenant Cain Maynard of the KVFD went into action and delivered a healthy baby girl in the living room of the home. Iris Copley came into the world at 11:12 a.m. weighing 5 pounds and 7 ounces.

Cain Maynard was assisted with the delivery by Mara Maynard, Lt. Kenneth Hunt, Capt. Wayne Williamson, Chief Hawky Preece, and Trevor and Tyler Kirk.

After giving birth, the KVFD met the Dunlow EMS and Ashley and Iris Copley were taken to Tug Valley Appalachian Regional Hospital in South Williamson, Kentucky. They are both doing fine, Mara Maynard said.

“Both are doing great with no complications. For the members of the KVFD this is one of the best calls, because most calls we respond to is helping people out of bad situations in their life,“ Mara Maynard said. “But in this case, it was one of the happiest for all of those involved.“

Cain Maynard, who delivered the baby girl, is a 15-year veteran of the KVFD. This is the first time he has actually helped deliver a newborn.

The Maynards visited Ashley and Iris later on Sunday to check on them, after one emergency call they are not likely to forget.

A food pantry opens at Marshall University?

For students I can understand.
But its also for faculty and staff?

Really now?  Their salaries are that poor they need access to a food pantry?

Times area really tough in West Virginia.  Really are.

Comment by Tough Times at Marshall University  on  11.14.2017
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