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Roundtable set for Tuesday regarding distribution of opioids

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Local, state and federal officials will take part in a roundtable on Tuesday on ways to address the illegal distribution of opioids.

The forum, hosted by U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, will be held at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

Other participants including Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial, state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine and fellow U.S. Attorney Bill Powell.

The forum will be closed to the media, although reporters will have access to opening statements as well as to participants after the event concludes.

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Justice adds exemption to burning ban

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has added fires exempt from the statewide burning ban following a request from the West Virginia Division of Forestry and the Division of Natural Resources.

Fires built for warming and cooking within fireplaces or fire rings are excluded from the ban, which went into effect last Friday.

The order was made because of dry and warm conditions around the state. Other exclusions include fires for chemical production, fires for commercial land-clearing efforts, training fires and commercial outdoor cooking and liquid-fueled gas fires.

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Lincoln County High School student dies in wreck

HAMLIN, W.Va. — A Lincoln County High Scholl student died Monday in a fatal crash in Hamlin.

The incident happened on Route 3 between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Two trucks were involved. Two other people were taken to the hospital.

According to the high school, grief counselors will be available on Tuesday to talk to students.

No names have been released.

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Wheeling Park brimming with confidence ahead of showdown with Zanesville

WHEELING, W.Va. — As Wheeling Park walked off the field Setepmber 6 following its 36-33 loss to St. Clairsville (Ohio), Patriots’ coach Chris Daugherty wasn’t sure what the immediate future held.

Daugherty’s team had just fought back from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to nearly win. Yet at 1-1 and with five matchups remaining against Class AAA postseason qualifiers from a season ago as well as Zanesville (Ohio), Daugherty knew his team’s margin for error was small.

Over the last two weeks, the Patriots have given just the response Daugherty was hoping for in a 43-26 win over Hedgesville that was followed by last week’s 42-6 victory over University.

“They’re willing to fight through adversity,” Daugherty said. “We’ve lost some kids and it was a fast thing where we didn’t have time to kind of get everything thought out. We had to go into the St. Clairsville game without a couple moving pieces. (Running back) Rapheal Bradley was hurt and he’s starting to get healthy and looks a lot better. 

“We’re going to gain two players back. To see the team kind of bond, come together and keep battling and realize just because guys aren’t here, we don’t fold. We’re going to go out and play hard. I’ve been really happy with their mindset.”

At 3-1, Park is feeling good about its play as it braces for Friday’s matchup against Zanesville, who will bring a 4-0 record into their matchup in the Mountain State.

Daugherty isn’t shying away from the challenge the Blue Devils will present to his squad at Wheeling Island Stadium — the fourth time in five games the Patriots will play at home.

“It’s going to be a tough task for us,” Daugherty said. “They’re good. That’s probably the best team we’ve played to date, so we’ll see how we fare.”

But it’ll also be a test for St. Clairsville, which will have to contend with a Patriots’ offense that’s averaging more than 43 points per game and has scored at least 33 in all four contests.

Park quarterback Alex Dunlevy is playing at a high level and has a multitude of weapons to choose from.

“Dunlevy makes the whole thing go and he’s smart,” Daugherty said. “We put a lot on his table.”

Over the last two games, Dunlevy has thrown five touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores. Three of Dunlevy’s five passing TDs were to speedy wideout Shaheed Jackson, while Carson Namack and Steven Mitchell each hauled in a TD as well.

The aforementioned trio, as well as playmaking wideout Sincere Sinclair, are each juniors.

“Last year, some of our secondary and wide receivers were young kids and their talent didn’t always show,” Daugherty said. “Now as juniors, having that sophomore year to be on the field allows them to feel a little more comfortable. The game has slowed down for them. Even though they’re juniors, they’re playing like seniors.”

Toss in the improving health of Bradley, a powerful 205-pound senior back, along with the expected return of senior tailback Kenya Robinson, and opposing defenses have their hands full with the Patriots.

“They don’t care who gets the ball and right now, they’re all capable of making a play and that’s hard on a high school defense,” Daugherty said.

An offensive line that was breaking in five new starters to begin the season is also progressing the way Daugherty had hoped it would.

“We felt like we had a good group coming, but they’re as green as this turf,” Daugherty said. “They’ve really come on, especially in the last two weeks. That’s been a big part of our success, too, how they’ve been able to play.”  

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Blatt further explains Balanced Scorecard, recorded absences

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Assistant Superintendent of Schools spent Monday answering questions from lawmakers and clearing up any confusion regarding the recent Balanced Scorecard and recorded absences.

The report, released earlier this month, stated more than 38 percent of schools did not meet the standard when it comes to student attendance; sixteen percent of elementary school students are reported as chronically absent, as are 20% of middle school students and 24% of high school students.

Michele Blatt told members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability that attendance secretaries track why students are absent — including medical appointments and unexcused absents — but the federal government looks at chronic absenteeism as excused or unexcused.

“They’re looking at it as if they are not there, they’re not learning,” she explained.

Blatt noted the state does not count bus problems, alternative learning environments or suspensions.

Blatt said the department is trying to figure out what services to offer children to reduce absenteeism as well as what to do to keep students engaged.

Students are offered home visits after missing multiple days, but resources are limited.

“We have a great start on the solution with the $30.5 million that you put in for the student support services. Those are the things we are encouraging our counties to look at the individual school levels for what do they need,” Blatt said. “If there is an issue — if it’s attendance — we need the social worker or the counselor or somebody that that’s their job to make those home visits or set up those meetings with parents.”

The omnibus education bill, which Gov. Jim Justice signed over the summer, dedicating $30.5 million for additional support staff.

Blatt added hiring additional staff was only a start to addressing the larger issue.

“I hope to be able to stand in front of you next year and say that’s made an impact on our attendance across the state,” she said.

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Announcement on WVU, cows slated for Tuesday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An announcement regarding West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture and cows will be made Tuesday.

The decision will come after an external review of the college’s seven farms, which sits on 3,000 acres, and some improvements that could be made.

The college’s interim dean Ken Blemings said an internal group is taking that information to formulate a plan for the future.

“This internal group is working toward developing a forward-looking strategy for the farm system that prioritizes resources to support their research and teaching missions,” he said.

Blemings stressed there are no current plans to sell any part of the WVU ag education system.

Faculty and staff will first hear the news during a closed meeting.

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Economic development conference underway in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University John Chambers School of Business and Economics began the West Virginia Economic Development Council Fall Conference on Monday.

The conference, taking place at at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place, has sessions about training and attracting talent, site selection, addressing workforce participation and drawing new businesses to the Mountain State.

Javier Reyes, the vice president for Start-Up West Virginia, said part of the university’s mission is to fuel economic development.

“This is one of those in which we’re not only showcasing what we’re doing, but also providing a venue where the community from across the state can showcase all the efforts and we can connect the dots,” said Reyes, who is also the business school’s vice president.

University president Gordon Gee started the conference with a message about the problems facing West Virginia and directed the attendees to collaborate.

“Venues like this one provide a great place where you can network and provide comments and understanding about the realities facing each region,” Reyes also said.

The agenda on Tuesday includes an update on legislative activities as well as discussions on analyzing new data sources, accessing capital and preparing for the hemp industry.

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National Science Foundation awards cooperative agreement for Green Bank Observatory

GREEN BANK, W.Va. — A new five-year cooperative agreement has been reached between with the Green Bank Observatory and Associated Universities, Inc., avoiding any shutdown of the facility, the National Science Foundation announced.

The Pocahontas County observatory operates the world’s largest, fully steerable telescope, the 100-meter diameter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), as well as numerous other smaller instruments and a world-renowned education and public outreach center.

In July, the National Science Foundation (NSF) entered a record of decision that said it would continue to support the operation of the massive telescope and its location in Green Bank.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) released a statement on Monday:

“It doesn’t seem like a month goes by without reading about another discovery made at the Green Bank Observatory. I am excited that the NSF has made the wise decision to continue this partnership and provide some much-needed stability to help continue fostering innovation and discovery. It has been my privilege to advocate for Green Bank as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and to help support all of the good work happening there. I’ll continue to do so now and for the many future scientists and explorers who are inspired by the Green Bank Observatory.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) released a statement on Monday, in part:

“Scientists at the Green Bank Observatory have made significant discoveries that have helped us better understand our universe. “Just last week, WVU researchers helped discover a massive star that strains the limits of physics. That discovery wouldn’t have been possible without the research made possible at Green Bank. Today’s announcement of a five-year cooperative agreement for the continued operations of the Green Bank Observatory is a testament to the tremendous amount of research and data the Observatory provides to the global scientific community.”

In 2018, NSF awarded $1.3 million to the Green Bank Observatory to implement a laser ranging measurement system on GBT that will measure any surface distortions very accurately, allowing the GBT to be focused precisely both day and night.

According to a release by Manchin, that investment increased the available usable time of the telescope at its highest operating frequencies by as much as 1,000 hours every year, with a corresponding increase in the scientific output of the GBT and its utility to the US scientific community for a broad range of investigations.

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Big 12 notebook: Key Horns out for WVU game; Gundy goes ballistic

Texas’ defensive backfield has been dealt a major blow heading into the No. 11 Longhorns game at West Virginia on Oct. 5.

Texas coach Tom Herman announced his team will be without starting cornerback Jalen Green and starting safety Caden Sterns in two weeks. Green is out four weeks with a dislocated shoulder, and Sterns will miss the same amount of time after spraining a knee ligament.

Even the Longhorns backup defensive backs are banged-up. Reserve corner Josh Thompson is also out indefinitely after breaking a bone in his foot.

The loss of Sterns is by far the most significant setback. The 2018 Big 12 defensive freshman of the year looked on track towards potential all-American status as a sophomore. He has 29 tackles in Texas’ first four games, including 12 against Oklahoma State before the knee injury forced him to leave the game.

Texas’ injury woes aren’t limited to the secondary.

Wide receiver Collin Johnson, the top target for quarterback Sam Ehlinger, is looking questionable for the WVU game.

“West Virginia is the best-case scenario for Collin Johnson. To say ‘expect’ is a bit far-reaching,” Herman said when asked when the receiver would be back in the lineup.

A hamstring injury kept Johnson out against Oklahoma State. He was seventh in the Big 12 with 68 receptions last season.

Gundy calls out ‘jackass’

Outspoken Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy chewed out a reporter who asked a question that was either awkward, insensitive or just plain dumb depending on one’s perspective.

Mistakenly believing a satirical story about late Oklahoma State donor T. Boone Pickens leaving Gundy a gift card to a barber shop in his will to be real, an Austin-based reporter asked Gundy to verify that it was true. Like Bear Bryant’s houndstooth hat, Gundy’s mullet hairdo is a trademark.

In a moment that some covering Oklahoma State have called his biggest blow-up since his infamous “I’m a man, I’m 40!” rant, Gundy went ballistic on the Big 12 coaches teleconference.

“I would prefer to answer real journalism questions and not be disrespectful to Mr. Pickens at this time,” Gundy said. “Any jackass like you that would ask a stupid question like that is really hurting journalism and making real media people look bad. How about that?

“Don’t hurt the real journalism world. It’s jackasses like you that cause problems. They shouldn’t even let you call in. If you want to talk football, talk football. If you want to talk idiotic social media, go do something with a college kid.”

When the reporter offered a meek “thank you” in return, Gundy replied with a terse “You bet.”

Pickens, the multi-millionaire donor whose name is on Oklahoma State’s stadium, died at the age of 91 on Sept. 11. Given his net worth of $500 million, it seems unlikely the details of his estate have been revealed just yet, including barber shop gift cards.

Staley named Big 12 special teams player of the week

West Virginia kicker Evan Staley was named the Big 12 special teams player of the week. Staley kicked a season-high three field goals in the Mountaineers’ win on a windswept day at Kansas.

The junior hit a season-long field goal of 44 yards, while also connecting from 22 and 37. He averaged 62.8 yards per kickoff in six attempts, resulting in four touchbacks.

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (offense), Oklahoma State safety Kolby Harvell-Peel (defense) and Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (newcomer) were the other Big 12 players of the week.

Staley is the second Mountaineer named player of the week this year. Receiver Sam James was Week 3’s newcomer of the week for his nine-catch, 155-yard game against N.C. State.

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Photo gallery: Poca stays perfect with win over Logan

POCA, W.Va. — Photos from Poca’s 68-8 win over Logan, which improved the Dots’ record to 4-0.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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