Key Peninsula Middle School Faces the Future

PSD has incorporated the use of artificial intelligence programs for students to perform tasks such as research or learning English.


On the morning of Nov. 13, Key Peninsula Middle School Principal Luke Grunberg and Joy Giovanini, coordinator of innovation technology and highly capable students, stood in the entry welcoming visitors to the KPMS Artificial Intelligence information event. “AI for All” was the theme of the day. A detailed schedule that included student-led tours of the building, hands-on experience for visitors, and observation in classrooms awaited visitors from the community, teachers from other buildings, and the Education Service District.

KPMS underwent two profound changes this year to launch students into the future. The old middle school building was reimagined and rebuilt in the years following the passage of the February 2019 bond that funded the building and improvement of several schools in the Peninsula School District. Work at KPMS was completed faster and more efficiently than anticipated, which allowed for more changes than originally planned. Large media smart panels were installed in each classroom, while windows and open spaces provide light throughout the building.

Hand in hand is the second major change at the middle school — the incorporation of artificial intelligence in the classroom.

Kris Hagel, executive director of digital learning for PSD, said staff began talking about AI in January 2022. It was new territory for most, and the initial feeling was that AI use would be something like using smartphones for things other than phone calls.

But by the spring of 2022 staff were talking about using some of the technology regularly. A working group of 25 staff was formed, called the AI Action Research Group. Hagel said, “They sat and learned about AI, and then they went back into the classroom and started using what they had learned."

By the time school started in September, the staff had embraced the transition to AI. “We are getting a lot of recognition around the country for what we are doing here,” Hagel said, including a segment on PBS, and an interview in Time Magazine.

District Superintendent Krestin Bahr credited school leadership with the move to AI. Teachers received some training during professional development days and on their own time. There is also the very real sense that students and teachers alike are learning new skills every day. 

The language arts class taught by Kate Schrock was open for observation during the tour. The students used AI programs to prompt writing ideas and to enhance writing with illustrations. Students worked individually but were enthusiastically sharing discoveries.

Other classes with students for whom English is a second language used AI to help with translation and improve writing skills. The AI programs are available for students to choose the skill level they are most comfortable with. For example, if their skills are lower than some, they can privately choose the level where they can best function, moving up in skill level as they learn.

PSD System Integration Analyst Reese Herber and Mason Pratz, data integration analyst, are proponents of AI use. “The future is here, there is no going back,” Herber said. 

Because AI usage is still new to the district, test scores and hard data are not yet available. Anecdotally, some KPMS teachers said they felt the programs make a difference, more so for struggling students.

“It will help close the equity gap ... It will only get better, more refined, more useful,” Herber said.

“It would be a mistake not to use it,” Pratz said. “It’s necessarily going to change how everything works."

The staff developed a document called AI Principles and Beliefs, which can be found on the district website. The document addresses ethical issues and guidelines for AI use. "We view AI as a tool that can intensify the human element in education.” The document emphasizes the positive aspects of AI in the classroom while acknowledging the potential pitfalls and precautions that are necessary for ethical use. 

Some parents expressed opposition to AI and opted their children out of use. “Last year we saw about a 3% opt-out rate,” Hagel said. “This year we have yet to track it systematically.

”ChatGPT and Grammarly are AI tools available to everyone at KPMS. Other programs, such as Elicit and Curipod, are available for teachers to assist with planning, activities, and learning assistance for students. AI is available for creating posters, videos, presentations, and research of primary sources and citations.

Former PSD school board member Marcia Harris attended the presentation. “I found it quite exciting. Personalized education for every student is something I’ve dreamed about for decades. To have the early adopters get involved to work through the details and see the results paves the way for others to take up the idea and adopt it as well. The kids can experience success right from the start.”