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Teachers grateful for Airlift Wing supply drop

April 24, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD and DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An opportunity to get free school supplies courtesy of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard on Wednesday attracted a number of Eastern Panhandle school teachers who said they have spent hundreds of dollars, if not more, to help their students each year.

"The generosity is so much appreciated," said Jennifer Huff, a kindergarten teacher at Berkeley Heights Elementary School.

Beginning about 11 a.m., Huff and other teachers and staff came to the guard unit's base entrance at Kelly Island Road south of Martinsburg for the giveaway of dozens of boxes of Air National Guard-themed notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers and folders.

Kits for teachers containing a coffee mug, grading scale, hi-liters, pointer, book bag and planner also were among the freebies.

"We're just happy we could do it," Staff Sgt. Christina Murray, of the Airlift Wing's recruiting office, said.

Earlier this year, the Airlift Wing based at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport decided to give away the learning materials en masse, rather than use them as part of recruiting functions.

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"We're hoping we can do it again next year," Murray said.

Murray estimated the boxes of school supplies stacked on 13 pallets were worth more than $50,000. Each box contained 15 multisubject notebooks, 15 white plastic rulers, 30 blue eraser-tipped pencils, 15 pens and 30 folders. There were more than 40 boxes on each pallet.

"It will save us money out of our own pocket," said Chrissy Bolyard, a kindergarten teacher at Rosemont Elementary School.

Charles Town Middle School staff were also thankful.

"It's huge," said Annie Trunnell. "We're very grateful that they're doing this."

Mill Creek Intermediate School assistant principal Erica Propst said the Bunker Hill, W.Va., school's 500 fourth- and fifth-graders "are always running out of pencils."

According to state Board of Education policy, school districts are required to provide textbooks and items determined to be an "integral and fundamental part of the elementary and secondary education" free of charge.

In August 2007, state Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said those items included "basic paper, writing utensils and other items that a student must have in order to participate in the curriculum."

Items such as backpacks, tissues, hand sanitizer, specialized binders and folders are not considered "integral and fundamental," Paine announced before the beginning of the school year.

Murray said the donations offered the Guard unit a way to give back to the community.

"The schools have been very supportive of the unit out here," Murray said.

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