After talking with the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School Board of Directors to get their feelings on partial-day academic sharing, the Emmetsburg Community School Board of Directors agreed on a sharing proposal for RA to consider. The proposal was approved by the Emmetsburg board in a special meeting Friday morning, Feb. 1.
"What we've come up with from some initial feedback from board members is a proposal to begin partial-day sharing and continue into a whole-grade sharing arrangement for high school, starting in 2017-2018," Superintendent John Joynt explained to the board. "We thought, 'What could be better? Having the kids here all day.' That would be a benefit to all high school students because we could provide more opportunities like adding sections to high-demand courses and expanded offerings in career courses and academic offerings as well."
According to Joynt, the proposal would call for partial-day sharing to start with the 2013-14 school year at a 50 percent tuition funding for Ruthven-Ayrshire's 9-12 students. The second year of the agreement, 2014-15, would continue at 50 percent tuition, and would also make available the option of sports sharing for RA students.
Year three, 2015-16 would call for tuition at 60 percent, as well as starting the process to negotiate a 9-12 whole-grade sharing arrangement for Ruthven-Ayrshire. Year four would be at 60 percent tuition and would begin the procedures for whole-grade sharing for 9-12 students from RA.
Then in the 2017-18 school year, the 9-12 whole-grade sharing arrangement would take affect, with funding to be negotiated by the districts.
Along with the whole-grade share offer, the proposition also offers full athletic sharing and the option to possibly share a Superintendent between the two districts.
"I guess in our minds, it's probably inevitable that this is going to happen down the road," offered Board member Kathy Roethler.
"We know they are thinking more along the lines of long-term partial-day sharing," Joynt said.
"I was thinking the reason we didn't bring this up was because they're trying to hang on," Roethler added. "I think this is great, these are all ideas that I've thought of, too."
"The hope I have is that the whole board is on the same page," Board member Rick Brennan said. "I personally don't see a benefit of partial-day sharing past four or five years. I would like to see us move toward whole-grade sharing 9-12 and look to consolidation. To me that's the best thing for all students in both districts."
Brennan continued, "If we don't put that on the table now, we'll wish we would have in four or five years. We need to discuss that openly and be direct about it. I want to make sure their board and their public understand that we've talked about that not only at our board meetings but also as we go forwards in the public relations process."
While acknowledging that Ruthven-Ayrshire is in a sports sharing agreement with Graettinger-Terril, Brennan noted that the RA board, as well as parents and student needed to be aware that Emmetsburg would offer sports sharing at no cost to them, potentially to start after the coming year.
"This proposal makes us look down the road," agreed Board member Scott Kibbie. "If we don't spell it out now where we want to be, we're not looking out for our district."
Board President BJ Schany also supported the idea of offering the sports sharing option in the proposal. "I just can't get over the idea of having their kids here in the morning, and then going back to Ruthven and then to Graettinger to play sports. Like Paton-Churdan, those kids are playing sports together, and they have some continuity. It would be better for all the kids if they were one team."
"It kind of makes you wonder why we're good enough to educate the kids, but not good enough to play with," Kibbie observed.
"If I'm in Graettinger-Terril, I'm thinking the same thing," Schany agreed. "We're not good enough to educate them but good enough for sports."
"I agree with the sports sharing option," noted Board member Karla Anderson. "I just think the more we can share is to our benefit."
"I'm all for partial-day sharing because it's a good step to the next progression," Brennan said. "I want it to be known that I'm not against partial-day sharing, but I want to make sure we have a plan. If we do not plan now and do not communicate that to their board and their public, I have concerns about bigger issues down the road that the students don't need and school districts don't need and the parents don't need or the communities."
"We want them to want to be here," Kibbie said.
Karla Anderson pointed out that Emmetsburg has attempted to offer sharing at other times in the past to RA. "This is exactly what they are afraid of, we have timelines and this is what they're going to have to do. I think they know it and we know it, but it's tough to bring it to the table and talk about it."
"Yes, this may cause bumps, potentially close the door, but that's OK I think we all need to be prepared for that." Brennan said. "I think we all need to be direct enough with them so they know. I just think this is the right way to approach this, very similar to a business transaction."
The board was in agreement that the whole-grade sharing of high school students would allow the district to be more efficient by having classes at or near capacity, as small sections were not efficient. Expanded offerings such as CADD II, Metals II, Food Production for Career Academy courses, and academic offerings like Statistics, Calculus, Chemistry II and Physics II would be possible, as well as Advanced Placement courses would all be possible with more students in the high school.
"Talking about whole-grade sharing for high school may potentially throw up a road block, " Brennan said.
"Well, we'd just be back at the table again in a couple of years anyway," Roethler said.
"So let's just go ahead and deal with it now," Brennan replied.
"As far as shutting the door," Kibbie said. "If I were a parent there, I'd much rather be approached with this than to worry about it for the next few years."
"If my fifth and sixth grader were in that district, I'd want this offer in front of me," Brennan said.
"I think this is so much better in applying for the future, academically, adding classes would add opportunities for all our kids," Kibbie said.
After Brennan offered a motion that was seconded by Board member Kim Campbell and the proposal was approved by the Emmetsburg board on a 6-0 vote, with board member Tammy Naig absent and not voting.
"Bottom line - this is for the future of Emmetsburg and our ability to offer a growing quality of education our kids are going to demand," Brennan said. "Our kids, their kids deserve the best education opportunity possible, period. The smaller schools are going to continue to struggle to offer the things they can offer and this is bridge for both schools over the next four to 10 years to keep growing in that area. It may be uncomfortable to talk about, but it's got to be talked about and it's honest. We need to do it now."