Health Team

These West Virginia kids aren't treating the teacher strike as a vacation. They're picketing too

Many West Virginia students don't want more days off from school, but they do want their teachers to get better pay.

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Isabella Gomez
Christina Zdanowicz (CNN)
(CNN) — Many West Virginia students don't want more days off from school, but they do want their teachers to get better pay.

The four-day teacher work stoppage has closed every single public school in the state, leaving more than 277,000 students with unexpected free time.

"I wish it wouldn't have come to this and that I was still in school, but I want the teachers to get the wages that they deserve, so I'm alright with it," said Victoria Blickenstaff, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior High School in the city of Fairmont.

So, Blickenstaff and her classmates have been joining teachers on the picket lines since Thursday.

A hashtag takes off

They're sharing pictures using the hashtags #55Strong and #SecureOurFuture. The latter was started by a group of student organizers at Capital High School in Charleston.

On February 21, they organized a purple-out across their school and neighboring counties to stand in solidarity with their teachers. Students wore purple to signify a combination of red and blue, the two teachers' union colors. Students from 18 schools across the state participated.

The #SecureOurFuture leaders also penned an open letter to the people of their state, asking them to understand the importance of the strike.

"For us, this work stoppage is not about missing class," the students told CNN. "As we stated in our open letter, 'We understand that this strike is not just a day off from school for us; it is not about pay, it's about what's right.'"

Some athletes OK with the strikes

Many students are worried about falling behind, but they're also sympathetic to what's at stake for those who teach them.

"I've been trying to keep of track with my AP Government and AP Psychology without school because it's really hard to miss so many days with exams coming up," Rhea Rideout, a senior at Huntington High School in Huntington, tells CNN.

Still, Rideout, like others, say they understand.

Avary King, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior High School, said that some members of her community are upset the work stoppage could impact school sporting events. But not all athletes share the same feelings.

Chase Goldsmith is a part of the #SecureOurFuture leadership and also plays on his school's football team. Although they are currently off-season, he says he would sympathize with the teachers even if the strike did cancel games and practices.

"Our education comes first as we are student athletes. For our education to come first, our teachers have to come first. Most athletes understand and agree with that," he said.

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