As discussions on the possibility of sharing in some form continue between the Ruthven-Ayrshire and neighbor Graettinger-Terril School boards, obtaining the public's input has been a priority. Both school boards have circulated public surveys to gauge the sentiment of their respective district patrons, and the Ruthven-Ayrshire board members reviewed their survey results in a special work session Sunday evening, Nov. 25.
The survey was offered to patrons of the Ruthven-Ayrshire district - students, parents and community members for a week. In that time, 227 responses to the survey were received. Of all respondents, 210 indicated their first choice for a sharing partner would be Graettinger-Terril, while 49 individuals indicated Emmetsburg was their first choice. By percentage, 73 percent favored sharing with Graettinger-Terril and 27 percent favored Emmetsburg.
The other major result of the survey found 66 percent of all respondents favored a whole-grade sharing arrangement, while 34 percent were in favor of partial-day sharing.
While the survey asked for input on possible partner school districts for sharing, it also asked respondents what they felt were educational priorities for students, as well as location of grades in the event of a sharing agreement. The survey also asked for general comments, which ran a large gamut.
"A lot of the comments I'm seeing do reference our athletic sharing agreement, and the fact that Graettinger-Terril and Ruthven-Ayrshire are the same sized schools," RA Superintendent Andrew Woiwood said. "Several comments make mention of the idea of keeping the small school atmosphere and sense of community."
As the board members worked through the various responses, from parents, community members and students individually and then as a whole, a couple of trends were quickly identified. "The one thing I'm seeing right off the bat is that the people want more educational opportunities for our students," observed Board President Barry Fischer. "There's a lot of comments on expanding our course offerings."
Board member Ray Grandstaff echoed the sentiment. " I agree. I think more college preparatory and career academy courses would be a good thing. We need to prepare our kids the best we can."
The survey mentioned those very options, providing additional course offerings and greater opportunity for college preparatory and career academy opportunities, and were mentioned by over half of the respondents.
"Those additional course offerings have been discussed," RA Principal Jon Josephson said. "We've talked about courses like Botany, Zoology, Trigonometry, 21st Century Literature and the like."
It was also noted that one course Ruthven-Ayrshire offers that Graettinger-Terril does not is Industrial Technology, something the board felt was a major factor.
The overall response to the question of importance in having the high school located in Ruthven saw 104 people, 48.37 percent, favor such an arrangement. Only 56 people, or 26.17 percent, favored having the Middle School, or grades 6-8, located in Ruthven.
"By the numbers, the parents seem to favor the partial-day sharing plan, but the students seem to like the whole-grade sharing idea better," Woiwood.
"I have heard from some people that a concern they have with the partial-day sharing is that it will take more time out of the school day for travel," Fischer said.
Woiwood agreed, noting that with partial-day sharing, travel time would take place during the school day, while a whole-grade sharing agreement would have travel before and after the school day starts and ends.
The board spent over two hours discussing results of the survey, identifying items they wished to discuss with the Graettinger-Terril school board and possibly negotiate.
While no decisions were reached in Sunday's meeting, talks between the two districts are continuing. A joint board meeting between the two school boards is set for Monday, Dec. 3 at Graettinger. The RA board will meet in its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 10 and will host a second joint board meeting in Ruthven on Wednesday, Dec. 12. A Public Hearing for patrons from both districts has been scheduled for Dec. 20.
"Well, we wanted to make sure all the community members had a chance to include their input," Barry Fisher said. "I'd say we've gotten some very good input here."