Preston BOE faced with decisions about levy, AI, more

By Jeniffer Graham  

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KINGWOOD — After four hours, 38 minutes and three executive sessions, the Preston County Board of Education adjourned — but not before  authorizing Superintendent of Schools Brad Martin to explore options concerning the possibility of closing Rowlesburg and Fellowsville schools, placing the levy on the November election ballot, adding an AI program for students and staff and charging a fee for the use of school facilities.  

Preston County policy 4-9 has remained in effect during the past five years. The policy approved funding to offset the cost of facility-use requests by designated Class I, II, III and IV users. The fees covered rental fees, custodial, cook or supervisory costs that have been previously charged to the levy fund. After July 1, individuals and groups will be charged a fee in line with the school policy.  

“This is not punishment or retaliation over the levy,” board member Cross Kisner said. “It’s a policy that has always been on the books but the levy paid for it. After July 1 it won’t.”  

The board also voted for Martin to explore options and report back to the board about the possibility of developing a policy related to the institution of activity fees for athletic and other extracurricular activities for the 2024-25 academic year. Athletic coaching and activity sponsor contracts are partially funded with levy money. As a result, either coaching salaries could be reduced or activity fees could be  implemented to help offset the associated salary costs.  

Two county schools could also be on the chopping block. The 2020 Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) called for the consideration of closing Rowlesburg and Fellowsville schools beginning in the 2024-25 school year. Timelines for any closure proceedings for the schools for the 2025-26 school year would have to be accomplished prior to Dec. 31. The item was placed on the agenda as both a discussion and a potential action. Board members voted to have Martin explore the options and report back to them about the possible closing of the two schools.  

A fourth item Martin was asked to explore was the possibility of running the levy proposal on the November General Election ballot. If the board does not decide to run the levy on the November ballot, the next opportunity to run it wouldn’t be available until the primary election in the spring of 2026.  

According to information on the agenda, Chat for Schools is a program designated to allow for the safe use of AI in schools.  

However, not all board members agree about implementing it for students and staff. According to its website, Chat for Schools provides AI tools for teachers and saves them hours of time. Teachers can generate quizzes, writing assignments, remix assignments, lesson plans, create teaching tutors and generate emails, create icebreakers, write emails and recommendation letters and provide teachers and students access to safe, controlled ChatGPT.  

“We’re going to take money out of our budget to pay for something that has no educational value and opens up to a lot of fraud in student work?” Kisner asked.  

Board President Bruce Huggins said the school doesn’t have a policy concerning AI and that could lead to trouble.  

“We need to make sure we have a policy in place. A lot of states don’t have rules and regulations for AI. There is also questions on the federal level with concerns,” he said  

Student board member Colson Manko suggested putting five students together to work on a project rather than having them use the internet.  

Board members suggested getting more information about the program and asking the company to provide a comprehensive demonstration beforemaking any decision about implementing the program.  

Board members also recognized Preston County Teacher of the Year Sarah Rose. Rose is a fourth-grade teacher at West Preston. She has applied to compete for State Teacher of the Year.  

Also recognized was Seegee Bachtel, the cross-country, girls basketball and track coach. 

 Board members announced this year’s state level Golden Horseshoe winners. From South Preston, Sarah Dew and Kaiden Rankin; Brianna Watkinson from Central Preston Middle School; and Jacob Smith-Tatham from West Preston.  

Winners will be recognized during a ceremony June 11 in Charleston.