CHARLESTON (AP) — Eight public schools in four West Virginia counties have been targeted for closing, contingent on those counties receiving state funding to consolidate schools.
The state Board of Education approved last week the closing of Fall River, Kimball and Welch elementary schools in McDowell County; Fort Ashby Primary, Wiley Ford Primary and Frankfort Intermediate in Mineral County; Buffalo Elementary School in Wayne County, and Cedar Grove Middle School in Kanawha County.
The closings were earlier approved by local boards of education. They are contingent on funding approval from the state School Building Authority.
The authority receives more requests for funding from county school systems every year than it can accommodate.
A new McDowell County elementary school is planned on 350 acres near Mount View High School. In Mineral County, a consolidated primary school would be built in the Frankfort area.
Wayne County would tear down the elementary school and expand an adjacent middle school that would house prekindergarten through eighth graders.
Kanawha County’s plan would renovate Cedar Grove Middle School as a new elementary school and send middle school students to DuPont Middle School.
$1 million in federal funding awarded for agricultural worker training
CHARLESTON — Federal funding totaling $1 million is being provided for agricultural workforce training in West Virginia.
The funding was announced last week by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
The funds will be split evenly between two projects.
One is a shared use kitchen internship and network project at West Virginia University. The program is intended to strengthen workforce training at Pierpont Community and Technical College and Sprouting Farms’ Greenville Farm Kitchen by providing educational and training opportunities, internships and mentorships, according to a news release from Manchin and Capito.
The other half will go to Eastern Workforce Opportunity Regional Center and Services in Moorefield for its agriculture workforce development program. The project works to develop an agriculture workforce in the Potomac Highlands region through hands-on learning experiences and mentorship opportunities, the release said.
Offers of cash, free passes too gets big
CHARLESTON — West Virginia received 2,000 applications in the first two days after announcing it is recruiting remote workers, Gov. Jim Justice said.
Last week Justice and tourism officials announced the program that would give participants $12,000 cash and free passes for a year to recreational destinations such as whitewater rafting, golf and rock climbing.
Justice said state Tourism Cabinet Secretary Chelsea Ruby told him the state had received 55,000 inquiries into the program since then.
The program is accepting applications for the first 50 openings in Morgantown, home to West Virginia University. There will be openings later this year for remote worker spots in Shepherdstown in the state’s eastern panhandle, and for Lewisburg in the southeastern corner of the state.
The program was kickstarted in October by a $25 million gift to WVU from Brad Smith, the executive chairman of Intuit’s board of directors, and his wife, Alys, for an outdoor economic development collaborative.
offender set free
MOUNDSVILLE — A West Virginia man serving a long prison sentence for sex crimes has been set free after a judge said a county prosecutor erred in instructions to a grand jury.
Marshall County Circuit Judge David Hummel last week dismissed the case against Michael Daniel Bowman with prejudice, meaning the state cannot retry it pending a review, news outlets reported. The ruling means Bowman was set free and will not be registered as a sex offender.
Bowman, 41, had served 3.5 years of a 28- to 70-year sentence. He was convicted in July 2017 of sexual abuse by a custodian, sexual assault and three counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
Marshall County Prosecutor Joe Canestraro, who was elected in 2020, said a previous prosecutor never advised the grand jury about the elements of the charges.
Bowman is relieved, pleased to be with family and “continues to maintain his complete innocence,’’ said his attorney, Mark Panepinto.
Gorge Park offers
fishing events for
CHARLESTON — The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve will host fishing days for grandfamilies.
The events, targeted for grandparents raising their grandchildren, will take place on May 16, June 5 and June 26 from noon to 5 p.m. They will be held at the park’s Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center.
Any grandfamily can sign up and attend whether they know how to fish or not, the National Park Service said Tuesday.
“The event will feature knot-tying, casting techniques, fish identification, and Leave No Trace, followed by the opportunity to cast a line (or many) into the New River,’’ the park service said. Lunch will be provided between the activities.
For more details and registration, people can contact the National Park Service Ranger Mark Bollinger at mark_bollinger(at)nps.gov or through 304-860-7713.
Jobless rate falls to 5.9%, best in a year
CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has dropped below 6% for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit a year ago.
The rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 5.9% in March, WorkForce West Virginia said in a statement. It was the lowest rate since March 2020 when it was at 5.3%. The rate jumped to a high of 15.6% in April 2020 as employers temporarily closed their doors during the pandemic but has fallen steadily since.
The number of unemployed West Virginians fell by 2,400 in March to 47,300, the statement said.
Employment gains were led by 1,000 in leisure and hospitality, 800 in trade, transportation and utilities, 500 in education and health services, 300 in financial activities and 300 in professional and businesses services.
Job declines included 1,300 in government and 500 in other services.
The national unemployment rate in March dipped two-tenths of a percentage point to 6%.
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine amid concerns
MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University has temporarily stopped administering the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.
Dr. Clay Marsh, who is the state’s coronavirus czar and vice president and executive dean of WVU Health Sciences, noted that the federal recommendation occurred amid an investigation of unusual clots in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.
“The fact that CDC and FDA are acting out of caution for 6 clotting episodes in 6.8 million doses given should reassure West Virginia residents that we are watching any and all associated findings in those vaccinated to make sure safety is our priority,” Marsh said in a statement.
Until the cases are reviewed, WVU will pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines on all campuses out of abundance of caution, the statement said. WVU said it administered 846 Johnson & Johnson doses during an April 8 clinic on the Morgantown campus. All other clinics held at WVU have administered doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.
Gov. Jim Justice ordered the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to stop until further notice. The state’s health agency has received no reports of clotting events in West Virginia involving residents who have received the vaccine. o