After breaking off talks on academic sharing with Graettinger-Terril in December and entering into talks with Emmetsburg in January, the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School Board now has another decision ahead of them. In a special meeting Friday morning, Feb. 8, the Graettinger-Terril School Board made a proposal for partial-day sharing to the Ruthven-Ayrshire board, after the Emmetsburg district had offered a proposal for the same to the RA district a week earlier.
GT Superintendent Jesse Ulrich opened the discussion at Friday's 7 a.m. meeting pointing out that since December, it had been learned that RA was interested in more elective courses from GT, rather than core requirement courses, which gave Graettinger-Terril room to make a new proposal.
"If we were to reach an agreement, there would be no more sharing of Family and Consumer Sciences between us, or Vo-Ag," Ulrich said. "We would need to increase those two positions, and also add Industrial Technology, which would also require getting our facility back up to speed for those classes."
In a spreadsheet, Ulrich projected that the total costs to make those changes in the GT district would entail a cost of $90,937, which would handle staffing costs alone.
"Financially, through the tuition RA would pay us, this would be a break-even proposition," Ulrich said. "It would give us the opportunity to add Industrial Tech, a new offering for our students."
Ulrich noted that his financial projections were based on the belief that the state will provide two percent allowable growth funding for schools in the future. "And, no decisions on any staffing have been made at this time," Ulrich pointed out.
"The big kicker to our proposal is that we have differing philosophies on college courses," Ulrich continued. "We have offered online and television courses for seven or eight years now, while they are into the traditional student in front of the teacher style. We had 30 online courses taken here last year, and our students earned 150 credit hours in that manner."
Board President Kyle Norris asked what classes RA wanted that were not offered by GT. High School Principal Teresa Alesch replied that CADD and a Literature program were the two biggest.
"How will this affect our budget unspent balance?" Norris asked. "A month ago, it said this was something we shouldn't do."
"It won't hurt us and it won't help us," Ulrich answered. "It's just pretty much break-even. It would be my recommendation that we offer RA a two-year partial-day sharing deal, and then re-evaluate it at that time. I don't want to be locked into a three or four year deal."
"If we're pitching a two-year deal versus a four-year deal, I don't know if a two-year deal will make it," observed Board member Roger Schmitt.
"I'd say try the two-year and see if it works," Ulrich suggested. "That way, you can continue to talk with them about the future."
"I like the idea of two years, and then we get together to talk," Norris agreed.
"In two years, if our financial cliff comes, it gives us the opportunity to make changes if we need to for our own financial viability," Ulrich pointed out.
"What are the risks?" asked Board member Galen Chicoine.
Ulrich noted that even though RA has 71 students in grades 9-12, a more realistic number would be 60 but Open Enrollments could present a risk. Another risk was outfitting the shop building for Industrial Tech, but Ulrich stated he was confident that could be accomplished with PPEL funds or the state penny tax, rather than through the General Fund. Another risk would be for RA in terms of transportation of students and the related expenses.
"They will also be responsible to get computers for their kids since we are in One-to-One, but another risk is deciding what way to go, with Apple as we are, or with PC's, and then the management of the respective computers," Ulrich added.
Ulrich noted that he proposed the sharing take place during the afternoon hours, in order to eliminate some of the logistics involved in athletic practices. "RA also wants choir here, but are not sure about band at this time,"
Alesch allayed a concern over mathematics, which would be taught at GT. "I've looked at scheduling and how we could create additional sections, and I think we can cover the math aspect with the staff we have."
"That could be a possible risk, that might result in hiring a half-time or part-time math teacher," Ulrich said.
Norris asked the board members for their thoughts.
"I'd say offer a two-year deal at 50 percent tuition," Schmitt suggested.
"I don't know if two years would be long enough for them," said Board member Kevin Jensen. "I'd say three years and let the details work out. Let's get the kids in our building. I'd say 50-50-60 percent for tuition."
"I'd be OK with either the two or three-year deal," Chicoine said.
"If we'd go to a third year, are we putting a strain on this, after the first year, if we ask about talking about whole-grade-sharing?" Norris asked.
"They want no part of whole-grade sharing," Jensen replied. "They want to do something like this to help keep them alive."
"Well, this is revenue-neutral for us, so I see no reason that we couldn't help them out," Norris said.
Ulrich suggested that a three-year agreement would be a long time to be tied into a plan, and suggested that language to offer the third year as an option.
"How about the first two years at 50 percent, and an option for a third year at 60 percent, but they have to exercise the option by Feb. 1 of the second year?" Norris suggested.
"I think we're being more than fair," Jensen agreed. "It's their decision to make."
With that, Chicoine moved to propose the two-year, partial-day sharing agreement for grades 9-12 at 50 percent tuition, with a third year option at 60 percent, calling for the option to be exercised by Feb. 1 of year two of an agreement.
The offer was approved on a unanimous vote.