Community meetings in the works to discuss possible Preston school closings

KINGWOOD — Preston Schools Superintendent Steve Wotring and his staff are planning a series of community meetings as a prelude to deciding whether to recommend school closings.

These will not be board of education meetings, and a majority of board members cannot attend any one meeting, since they are not official BOE meetings.

Wotring told the board at its meeting Monday that he and the central office staff met for several hours Monday with the board’s legal advisor, “regarding policies and timelines for school closures and exactly everything that we would have to do.”

The attorney from Bowles & Rice advised Wotring to begin with informal community meetings.

He said residents will be asked to, “Give us your pros, give us your cons, talk to us about your ideas to cure our budget, etc. And then we bring all that information back,” Wotring said.

He will be setting up these meetings and send them to media to publicize.

Board Member Bob Ridenour asked if the staff is still looking at things like contracting out grass cutting that Wotring said might save money. The superintendent said that research is being done and information will be provided at a future board meeting.

Board President Jack Keim asked that the board be provided with carryover and end of year figures for the fiscal year ended June 30, so members can answer questions about finances.

Preston voters again defeated a special levy in May. In the wake of that defeat, Wotring presented several cost cutting options to the board, including closing schools in 2019-‘20 — Fellowsville and/or Rowlesburg.

Keim asked if there are any major repairs coming up in the newer buildings in the system? Wotring said structurally they are good, but, “where we do have issues are HVAC.” At the beginning of school air conditioners were down at Rowlesburg, South Preston and Preston High, and the AC at Central Preston was working overtime.

Also, “I think one big thing we may want to look at is converting South Preston from all-electric [to gas],” Wotring said. “The utility bills at South are double and sometimes triple our other schools, and it is the only one that is all-electric.”

Keim suggested getting a ballpark figure on what the changeover would cost. “We might be able to pay for that with the money we would save,” Keim said.

Also Monday, the board renewed the agreement with the Preston County Sports Association. There is no cost to the county. It allows students to use the soccer fields owned by the association.

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