Ohio County Board of Education Leases Gas Under Wheeling Park High School

O’CULL

Ohio County Board of Education members Monday approved a natural gas lease for property beneath Wheeling Park High School.

The agreement with American Petroleum Partners of Canonsburg, Pa. is for 66 acres of land at $6,000 an acre, and 18 percent of royalties from the gas extraction. The signing bonus is $396,000.

Drilling would not take place near the school, but within the Minch unit and well pad, school officials said.

The action marked the second time in five months the board has agreed to a natural gas lease agreement for the same 66 acres.

In March, board members approved a deal with Southwestern Energy for only $3,500 an acre, and 18 percent of the royalties. This would have netted Ohio County Schools a $231,000 signing bonus — more than 40 percent less than the deal approved Monday. The school district later learned an auction of the rights was required, and the first deal was annulled.

In other matters, Howard O’Cull, executive director of the West Virginia Schools Boards Association, presented the association’s agenda for the upcoming session of the West Virginia Legislature. One issue likely to be considered by lawmakers is a proposal to lower the state requirements for graduation from public high schools from 24 credits to 21 credits.

WPHS Principal Amy Minch said the move isn’t intended to allow seniors to graduate early, but instead would allow high schools more flexibility in setting their own requirements for graduation and let students take electives more pertinent to their career goals.

She said students likely would still be required to have 24 credits to graduate from WPHS, but principals would work with each student to craft a curriculum specific to their needs.

In his presentation, O’Cull said there will likely be much discussion in the Legislature as to whether members of the West Virginia Board of Education — presently appointed by the governor — should instead be elected. Members serve nine-year terms on the state board, and O’Cull indicated their length of term could be reduced.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Middle Creek Elementary School Principal Katrina Lewis welcomed Undo’s restaurants as a “partner in education.”

Ohio County Board of Education President Zach Abraham was present for the meeting, as were members Sarah Koegler, Christine Carder and Tim Birch. Shane Mallett was absent.

The board announced a change in time for their next meeting, which will take place at 8 a.m. Jan. 8 at the board office. The meeting will be followed by a work session.

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