Preston re-examines policy governing student transfers

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Board of Education is discussing possible changes in its student transfer policy.

After construction of  Preston High School, the state board of education said students in northern Preston County could apply to Monongalia County high schools, while those in the Aurora area could apply to Tucker County  schools.

Transfer requests come before both county boards of education for approval. Over the last year, Preston County Board of Education has not always approved transfer requests.

But not all requests are refused by Preston County, and Board President Jack Keim said last week sometimes being able to ask parents questions might help him decide on a transfer request.

Board Member Pam Feathers asked if the county policy on transfers could be reevaluated. Perhaps parents and students should appear before the board, she said, “so that we could ask questions, because it’s a little hard sometimes to interpret their explanation.”

The board receives written requests now.

Keim pointed to  a request last week asking that  a Bruceton eighth grader be allowed to attend high school in Monongalia County in 2019-’20.

“One problem with this is we’ve already approved for his brother to go to the school, so I think [the state] would throw it back at us,” Keim said. Though he often votes against out-of-county transfers, he voted for this one. But he opposed a similar request from another student.

“I’ve stated time and time again that I have a concern when I think that they are trying to say that Preston County doesn’t offer the same opportunities as Mon County,” Keim said. “But then you get down into the parents’ request and everything. And in this one, particularly, I look at in 1992, this student’s father  requested to go to Mon County and Preston County approved it.”

Preston Superintendent Steve Wotring said an agreement reached in 2007 by then  Monongalia Schools Superintendent Frank Devono and Preston Superintendent John Lofink said  both counties must vote on the transfer.

There are “legitimate” reasons for transfers, Keim said, but sometimes he feels pressure from the past. “And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

“I agree with Pam wholeheartedly,” Keim said. “It would make it a much easier decision if we were able to face the parent or the student or both and really see if there was a benefit for them going from one  school to another school.”

But Board Member Bob Ridenour said he is unsure  having parents there to answer questions would make any difference.

On Oct. 22, the state heard an appeal from parents whose transfer request for their child the Preston County board refused. Wotring said no decision was issued yet.

“In light of whatever the response is, I assume that we’re going to have many more hearings and assume we would have many more appeals filed,” Wotring said.

“If you truly want to talk to parents to get the right information, we can have parents come back before the board, if that’s what you want,” he said. To do this, someone who voted in the majority on a refusal must ask to bring it back for reconsideration. That could be done while policy is undergoing revision.

Keim said if a parent asks Wotring to have the board reconsider a refusal, he has no problem with hearing from the parent.

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