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Fundraiser benefits organization focused on foster, kinship care

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia State Bar Board of Governors and the Young Lawyers Section held an information event and fundraiser Thursday benefiting an organization dedicated to helping foster families.

The event at Charleston’s Capitol Market focused on Mission West Virginia, an organization helping families with resources for foster care and provides programming to assist foster and kinship parents with the costs of raising children.

“Currently, we have 6,500 kids in care in West Virginia. About half of those children are being raised by relatives,” said Kylee Hassan, the marketing director for Mission West Virginia. “Raising awareness and funds allows us to help those children and families in the state.”

Mission West Virginia does receive grants from the state government and private organizations, but those funds must go directly toward helping raise children. Fundraisers like Thursday’s gathering raise money for items such as school field trips.

“It is vital to normalize childhood experiences for these kids,” Hassan said.

Gerald Titus, a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, said he did not fully understand the lives of children in foster care until his daughter told him about a student in her class. The child told Titus’ daughter she missed her mom and wanted to go home.

“She already saw herself as something different where she’s just a kid, but she’s saying, ‘I’m something different,'” Titus said of his daughter’s friend.

Titus continued, “[Mission West Virginia] is seeking to normalize the lives of children in care and give them the same experiences of their peers so they don’t miss out.”

Hassan said Mission West Virginia serves an important role in providing West Virginia children with childhood opportunities.

“Whether that’s us funding a child to go on a field trip or covering costs to go to a homecoming dance where they may not have gotten those same experiences because they are in foster care or kinship care,” she added.

Members of the state Supreme Court of Appeals also attended Thursday’s event.

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Mon County Schools Embroiled in Flag Controversy

A controversy is roiling Monongalia County schools over gay pride flags.

It began when Superintendent Eddie Campbell sent a letter to remind school administrators that the election season is quickly approaching and that, “While you may be tempted to engage in conversations with staff, families and students about related topics, you may not realize the communication could be unacceptable within our school system.”

Campbell went on to say that interactions with students and families “carry a great responsibility” to keep personal opinions, values and expressions of activism out of the classroom.

The notification reinforces a standing policy by the school system prohibiting political activities, “issues or a particular point of view” to be displayed. The memo led to Pride flags being removed from schools in the county. The rainbow Pride flag is the recognized symbol of the LGBTQ movement for acceptance and freedom to live without discrimination.

The flag is a statement with an agenda, one that is powerful and essential for individuals who desire acceptance for being their true selves.  But it is also a symbol of a movement often associated with political activism.  That generates controversy, as well as consternation among people who are unwilling or unable to accept the LGBTQ community.

That makes it a violation of school policy, which has angered many students, parents and teachers. They have spoken out at a school board meeting and rallied outside the school board office.  Some LGBTQ students say they are bullied, and they don’t feel safe at school.  A flag in a classroom to them was a symbol of a safe space.

If school officials look the other way on the pride flag, they will have to do the same for other flags.  Picking and choosing would run afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shurtleff v City of Boston, where the court ruled unanimously that Boston violated the Constitution when it rejected the Camp Constitution Christian flag, but accepted others.

It is important to note that the school policy does not prohibit students from exercising their First Amendment rights. For example, students can wear clothing with the rainbow flag. The courts have ruled that neither students nor teachers shed their free speech rights when they enter the school, but those rights have limitations.  The courts have also found that school officials have the right to control conduct, and that may involve certain limitations on speech.

The larger issue here is the allegation by LGBTQ students that they do not feel safe at school.  Morgantown Pride president Ash Orr said, “It’s the kids, the faculty and the staff who are inundated with this harassment and hatred every day in an environment where they are supposed to be feeling safe.”

If so, the focus is on the wrong flag; that’s a red flag warning that school officials need to take seriously.

Ron Lytle, president of the school board, said on WAJR radio this week, “I made them a promise that I will be their advocate.  If they don’t feel safe in the schools, we have an issue, and we need to address that.”

That sounds like a commitment from a person in a position of authority who is willing to do something about a problem, and that’s far more important than a fuss over a flag.

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US Senate passes resolution to avoid government shutdown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate passed Thursday a stopgap funding measure to keep the federal government open until mid-December, with the House of Representatives slated to consider the resolution on Friday.

The Senate passed the matter in a bipartisan 72-25 vote; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and 21 other Republicans joined Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Democrats in approving the item.

The continuing resolution provides enough funding to keep the federal government operating through Dec. 16. Lawmakers need to approve a funding measure before Saturday — the start of the new fiscal year — to avoid a government shutdown.

The resolution includes more than $12.3 billion in aid for Ukraine, $2 billion for block grants helping areas impacted by natural disasters and $1 billion for assisting low-income individuals and families with heating costs amid rising energy prices. Legislators also allocated $18.8 billion to FEMA’s natural disaster response campaigns, including upcoming efforts following Hurricane Ian.

The debate regarding the continuing resolution in the weeks ahead of Thursday’s vote centered on the inclusion of language related to energy permitting. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., previously agreed to consider permitting changes as part of the deal on the Inflation Reduction Act, and Manchin wanted permitting as part of the funding measure. The agreement also included the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the 303-mile system capable of transporting natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia once finished.

Manchin asked Schumer to remove language from the funding bill on Tuesday amid a struggle to get Republicans and Democrats to support permitting changes in the continuing resolution.

“Sen. Manchin, myself and others will continue to have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year,” Schumer said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Manchin noted Tuesday that Congress should pass permitting legislation, but lawmakers should work to ensure the government can remain open.

“We have a responsibility to prevent economic catastrophe for the American people and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue to work toward a compromise on the FY23 funding to avoid yet another extension that hurts the American people and our priorities,” he said Thursday in a statement.

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Wright provides insight into WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital opening

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The new WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital is beginning to welcome new patients to its facility.

Health care workers are transferring more than 100 young patients of Ruby Memorial Hospital to the new children’s hospital. The new 150-bed facility is one of 25 pediatric hospitals in the country attached to a larger academic medical center.

The hospital started accepting patients less than a week after a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Each child got essentially what we call a passport or a flight plan,” Albert Wright, WVU Health Systems’ president and CEO, said regarding the transfer process.

“This is where you’re at now, this what time you’re leaving, this is where it’s going to take you, and this is the room you’re going to.”

The new WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital is being billed as a one-stop, fully comprehensive children’s hospital that can serve West Virginia children. The ten-story, $215 million facility includes separate areas for maternal care and pediatric heart services, as well as intensive care units for cardiac and neonatal patients. Separate birthing centers and individual floors for patients and their families are also going to be in the hospital to allow any West Virginia resident to have care available.

“Not only are we moving patients today and admitting new patients, but we have five operating rooms in that new hospital today,” Wright said Thursday. “We have clinics running and the MRIs, so this is a comprehensive hospital.”

When the transfer of patients started for WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital at 5:30 a.m. Thursday, patients entered a facility with an atmosphere completely different from other children’s hospitals in West Virginia.

“We needed to do as much as we could to create positive distractions for children and their siblings and their families and make it as comfortable for families as we could,” Wright said.

Fundraising support for the children’s hospital began in 2017 with contributions from the West Virginia University Foundation, various corporate partners and WVU alumni like former WVU quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who also helped raise more than $60 million as part of the Grow Children campaign.

For Wright and WVU Health System, the community spirit to help those in need is reflected in the provided services and care.

“The amount of people, the teams, the architects, construction engineers, the designers, all of our caregivers, this is a hospital that’s open and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone involved in this,” he said.

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Marshall receives donation to complete funding for new baseball stadium

— Story by Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The necessary money appears to be in place for construction of Marshall University’s long-sought on-campus baseball stadium.

Governor Jim Justice, a Marshall alumnus, announced Thursday that the state is contributing $13.8 million dollars to the project, with that money coming from the state’s Department of Economic Development.

Marshall University President Brad Smith indicated the state’s funding share will provide all of the money needed to begin construction on the project in hopes of having it ready for use in spring 2024.

Demolition on the stadium site located north of the current Marshall softball complex began last week. 

Marshall Athletic Director Christian Spears said land clearance will continue over the next month while projects continue design work.

Marshall has not had its own baseball stadium near campus since the early 20th century. Games have been played at various Huntington locations as well as at nearby high school fields, Appalachian Power Park in Charleston and other college facilities around the state.

There has been no word regarding capacity of the new Marshall stadium as well as potential fan amenities.

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Notebook: Montcalm is making history; North Marion hosts marquee matchup vs. FSHS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 2022 high school football season will cross the midway point following this weekend’s game. A dozen Class A teams remain undefeated. That list includes such traditional power programs as Wheeling Central Catholic, Williamstown and Doddridge County.

Montcalm is off to their best start in program history. The Generals are 4-0 entering Friday’s home game vs. Hundred. Montcalm features a very young roster and head coach Adam Havens says the group is playing beyond their years.

“They have embraced the fact that we have talked to them about everything being hard. Everything is going to be difficult and you have to make hard look easy. That’s just something that we preach and talk about,” Havens said. “They have come together as a team collectively. They have embraced the start and they are hungry. They are so young that they don’t know any better.”

In their 28th season, the Generals are still seeking their first playoff appearance. Montcalm’s best season came in 2005 when the Generals went 8-2.

“All of those — you never have done this or we have not competed with this team well or beat this team — those are all motivational things that we can use, have used and will continue to use. Our kids are up to those challenges.”

North Marion leads ratings in Class AA; Polar Bears await Friday

North Marion’s steady climb continues on the Husky Highway in Rachel. Daran Hays’ club is seeking their fourth consecutive playoff appearance and they advanced to the Class AA quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons.

North Marion is off to a 5-0 start (Photo by Teran Malone)

The Huskies (5-0) have posted three consecutive shutouts heading into Friday’s contest against the two-time defending state champions from Fairmont Senior. North is No. 2 in the MetroNews Power Rankings and No. 1 in the WVSSAC ratings.

“I like this group a lot because they don’t let the moment get beyond them very much,” Hays said. “We strive to do great things because our program has had great moments. We are not naive. We may be numerically number one. But right now, I think everybody is chasing Independence and Fairmont Senior. Fairmont Senior I don’t think has lost a regular season game to a Class AA school since 2016.”

The Huskies are averaging 34.4 points per game under first-year starting quarterback Casey Minor.

“He is a dude. He is a physical, tough kid. Sometimes, he is competitive to a fault, which I can sympathize with. He reminds me of myself as a 17-year-old sometimes. He is the ultimate competitor. He is a guy our kids have a lot of faith in because they know nobody wants to win more than he does,” Hays said.

“There’s times we are in the film room going, ‘Buddy, I know it is not in your DNA but that one yard wasn’t worth taking that shot. Step out of bounds’. Sometimes we really have to twist his wrist on that.”

Martinsburg and Musselman march on at the midway point

Martinsburg’s Britt Sherman and Musselman Brian Thomas (Photo by Christopher C. Davis/@EP_BigCameraGuy)

Martinsburg bounced back from a Week 4 loss to Highland Springs, Va. with a 63-6 win over Hedgesville. The Bulldogs improved to 4-1 and they have seen a number of lineup changes throughout the first half of the season due to numerous injuries.

“We’ve played a lot of different players offensively and defensively this year. We’ve had as many as 10-to-12 guys out and 5-to-6 varsity guys at a time this season,” said Martinsburg head coach Britt Sherman. “I think one of the things that has maybe been a positive with that is that we have established a little bit of depth. We are definitely not peaking. We have been back to the basics and fundamentals. Hopefully, we will be peaking around the Week 11 or Week 12 mark.”

Martinsburg’s county rivals from Musselman are also off to a 4-1 start. In 2021, the Applemen suffered three losses by six points or less. This fall, Musselman has defeated Jefferson by one point, Sherando, Va. by four points and Morgantown by three.

“Last year, we lost those tight ball games. We couldn’t finish games and we couldn’t fight back. We just couldn’t get over the hump,” said Musselman head coach Brian Thomas. “This year, I have never seen anything like what we are doing. Not only have we won these three straight one-possession games, but the three wins we have are by a combined eight points. Not only have we won those games, combined they are by one possession.”

Beckley building on 2021 postseason appearance

Woodrow Wilson (4-1) is enjoying their best start to a season since 2012. The Flying Eagles own victories over Riverside, Greenbrier East, Bluefield and Lincoln County. Their lone loss came against unbeaten Parkersburg South. Beckley secured their first playoff appearance since 2014 last fall.

“Last year’s improvements have made this year a success. Those kids were excited to go to the playoffs,” said Woodrow Wilson head coach Street Sarrett. “They got hot there towards the end. We beat Morgantown in an overtime game, lost to Princeton by a score, beat Oak Hill and then beat South Charleston on the road. They got to the playoffs and got a little taste. It fed into the offseason. They got right back in the weight room.”

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Three Guys Before The Game – WVU Football vs Texas Longhorns Preview (Episode 405)

How much has the West Virginia football team improved in the last month? We’re about to find out.

WVU began the season on the road as a double-digit underdog and lost a heartbreaker in Pittsburgh.

This Saturday, the Mountaineers will be in Austin, Texas for a Big 12 showdown against the Longhorns.

Both teams are 2-2 overall and the loser will fall to 0-2 in conference play. Yes, there’s a lot at stake.

In this episode, the “Guys” sort through the analytics to provide the key elements that will decide the game. Listener questions and comments complete the show.

Brad, Hoppy and Tony return on Monday with a recap of what could be WVU’s last ever Big 12 game in Austin.

Three Guys Before The Game is sponsored by Burdette Camping Center Komax Business Systems  — and  Daniel’s Men’s Store.

Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, it’s free, subscribe below.

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WVU grads ride out Ian in Florida

NOKOMIS, Fla. — Two West Virginia University graduates who live in southwest Florida are safe after Ian slammed into the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane leaving behind massive destruction.

Elizabeth and Manu Chicoine live in Nokomis, which is about an hour north of where the eye of the storm hit in Fort Myers Wednesday afternoon. They decided to travel about 10 minutes south to stay overnight at Elizabeth’s parent’s house in Venice.

Elizabeth and Manu Chicoine stayed in Florida as Ian slammed the Gulf Coast Wednesday.

“I think we definitely got very lucky,” Elizabeth said during an appearance on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The wind started to pick up around 3 p.m. Wednesday. During their drive to Venice, the Chicoines saw the start of what would eventually become complete devastation.

“It was very windy, rainy, no lightening and no thunder, but the trees were swaying back and forth and I was definitely a little scared,” Elizabeth told “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval.

The area was flooded with no way out for most people. Fortunately, the couple lives on the second floor of a condo building, so even if they did stay at their home, Manu said they would’ve been fine.

“If we would’ve stayed here, I wouldn’t have been very worried about the flooding at all, but Elizabeth felt safer going inland slightly more to where her parent’s home is even though it was more south,” he said.

Manu said their decision to stay was based on the trajectory of the storm. While it was unknown, Manu said he felt they were positioned in a way that would put them out of harm’s way.

“It didn’t seem like we were going to get a ton of flooding. We’re not on the beach side of (Route) 41. I felt like the keys and the islands would get the most flooding,” he said.

Elizabeth’s parents house received no damage.

“I think they had a tree where one of the branches fell, but that was it, luckily,” she said.

The couple still has internet, too.

“Even up in Sarasota, I have co-workers up there who aren’t able to get on the Internet and at least we have 5G we can get on,” Elizabeth said.

The Chicoines were also with their 5 year old daughter Elle who is also safe.

More than two million homes in Florida remained without power Thursday afternoon.

The storm is expected to travel north in the next few days and dump several inches of rain in West Virginia on Saturday and Sunday.

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Research shows some acorns abundant, but the overall mast is down for 2022

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia hunters will notice a drop in overall mast production for 2022 in the woods of the Mountain State this fall, but one of the most prized sources of wildlife food did exceptionally well when compared to 2021.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources published the annual Mast Survey this week. The conclusions are the overall mast production was down 16 percent over the long term average statewide and it was 22 percent below last year. The report also found hard mast was down over the long term average by 21 percent and down 23 percent from the 2021 level.

However, the preferred food source for whitetail deer and many other game species, white oak acorns, saw a big rebound from last year.

“While White and Chestnut Oak acorn production was up significantly from 2021 across much of the state, production of Red/Black and Scarlet Oak is generally well below 2021 levels and the long-term average. White and Chestnut Oak acorns, and in some regions Scrub Oak acorns, should be most available statewide and should supply good nutrition to the species that rely upon them.”

Although the white oak acorns were a hit, other hard mast species were a bust. Beech, walnut, and hickory nuts were all down significantly from the 2021 level and were relatively below average across all of the state’s ecological regions.

Soft mast production for the year was considered mixed by reporters in the survey. Some of the soft mast species were well above the long term average, but in other parts of the state the trees were virtually bare.

“Soft mast production varied markedly by eco-region,” the survey read.

The mast survey also includes an annual hunting outlook from biologists with the West Virginia DNR. Based on the mast and other factors, biologist attempt to forecast the potential success for various game species. Although the predictions are based on available facts, other factors like weather are impossible to know, but can have a significant impact.

Based on the date, biologists at DNR predict the 2022 bear harvest will be lower. The change is blamed on changes in the season and a reduced opportunity for hunters to kill a black bear this hunting season. All or parts of 42 West Virginia counties will be open for bear hunting during the deer firearms season. However, for the first time in several yeas the agency dialed back the hunting opportunities in some counties as population levels appeared to peak.

As for the white tail deer season, overall the combined harvest of white tail deer for 2022 is expected to be similar to that of 2021. Mast conditions however are expected to have a negative impact on the archery season for deer. Officials suggested scouting and hunting areas of heavy white oak production. The food source is expected to hold out through the end of November. Other white tailed deer season, the buck season, muzzleloader season, and antlerless hunting seasons are predicted to be about the same level.

Squirrel season success is based on last year’s mast survey. The 2021 hard mast crop was slightly above the long term average, which meant squirrels came out of the winter in good shape and were able to add a second liter of reproduction. Hunter will likely find good squirrel hunting statewide this year and the harvest should be about what it was in 2021.

Wild turkey hunters are also expected to have a harvest close to the 2021 level. Officials say brood production, which is the key factor for the turkey harvest, was about the same as last year. The past two summers have been the best two summers in the last five years for broods. Officials say turkeys will probably feed in the woods amid a strong crop of white oak acorns.

Finally, several other game species are rated in the hunting outlook. Wild Boar harvests are predictive to be below 2021, racoon hunters will find a higher population of coon’s for the 2022-23 season. Off season reproduction of cottontail rabbits was hither and should offer more hunting opportunities. The ruffed grouse survey information indicates the downward trend will likely continue for another season with lower flush rates.

One of the agency’s survey authors, Dr. Chris Ryan, will talk more about the mast survey this weekend in an appearance on West Virginia Outdoors.

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Governor Justice monitors hurricane’s path; pledges West Virginia aid to hard-hit areas

Gov. Jim Justice says West Virginia is warily watching the progress of Hurricane Ian and preparing to respond if the remnants hit the state.

“That hurricane down there is tough stuff. Tough, tough stuff,” Justice said during a briefing today, asking West Virginians to support those already in the hurricane’s path.

The governor added, “We all know what a one- to three-inch rain can cause,” Justice said. “Can you imagine places getting 24 inches of rain? It is tough. It’s really tough.”

More than 2.6 million people lost power as the hurricane slammed into southwest and central Florida, also causing collapsed buildings, flooding, downed powerlines and impassable roads. The storm’s path was taking it toward South Carolina by Friday.

“I have directed the National Guard to provide any kind of support that they could possibly do,” Justice said during today’s West Virginia briefing. “Absolutely, I’ve directed them to be able to help in any way they possibly can.”

The State of Virginia declared emergency in advance of the storm’s likely drenching of the state this weekend. The State of Maryland has continued to monitor the storm’s path, remaining on alert for possible flooding and high winds.

In West Virginia, the governor said officials will keep an eye on the developing situation.

The National Weather Service in Charleston is anticipating dry and cool weather in the region until later Friday when remnants from the hurricane arrive. Rain and gusty winds are expected through Monday. The weather service anticipates total accumulations of 1.5 to 3 inches of rain with the highest risk of flooding in areas of poor drainage.

“We’re all over this. We’re watching it like crazy,” Justice said. “Three to five inches of rain in this state with our mountains and the situation the way it is would be a real catastrophic problem. We all know this, and we’re on it.”

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