Diminishing numbers and a desire to expand sharing opportunities prompted Ruthven-Ayrshire school board members to approve two sharing agreements Monday night with neighboring Graettinger-Terril.
As of second semester, the two school districts will share a vocational agriculture and FFA program. Football will also be shared between R-A and G-T beginning with the 2012-13 school year.
"We have struggled with sufficient numbers in our football program for several years," R-A Athletic Director Jon Josephson said. "We have a definite need to share."
Low student participant numbers resulted in an inability to play a junior varsity season, the practicing and playing of younger players against older players, a lack of competitiveness and cancellation of the 2011 varsity season after four games this fall.
When R-A went to a junior varsity football schedule in mid-September, neighboring districts such as G-T, Emmetsburg and Laurens-Marathon were contacted to determine if sharing possibilities existed. In turn, student surveys were conducted and R-A board members discussed sharing with G-T and Emmetsburg.
Representatives from both districts expressed interest in sharing football, voc-ag classes and FFA activities with R-A.
G-T Principal Jesse Ulrich, Emmetsburg principals Jay Jurrens and John Joynt joined R-A board members Monday night to continue the sharing discussions.
While Ulrich reported 85 percent, or 17 of 20 G-T students surveyed, stated they wanted to share football with R-A, Jurrens told the district's board members, "You are in a fortunate position. You just have to decide what's best for your students and your community."
Before the G-T and Emmetsburg agents were asked to leave, so R-A board members could further discuss which district they wanted to share with, Tracey Enderson told the Emmetsburg representatives, "You've got a wonderful program. Kudos to you. ... I just wondered how well our kids would fit."
R-A already shares baseball, track and golf with G-T. The district is scheduled to also share basketball and wrestling this winter prior to sharing an eight-man football season with G-T next year.
G-T board members are expected to approve the sharing agreement next week. State officials must be notified of the G-T/R-A Knights' football sharing arrangement by Thursday, Dec. 1.
The R-A board also approved G-T sending its voc-ag teacher to Ruthven for the first period of the day. She will teach respective courses and organize FFA activities for students in both districts beginning second semester.
The only cost to R-A will be for the G-T teacher's travel.
"That's awfully generous," board member Susan Sikora said.
As the board considered whether to share with G-T or Emmetsburg, R-A Principal Jon Josephson informed board members, "We will have scheduling problems no matter which way we go. It is going to be a choice situation for those students. ... It is a possibility, though, with that shared teacher that we could do an early-bird class just to get through this first year."
Thirteen members of a Ruthven-Ayrshire study team traveled to Jefferson-Scranton Tuesday. Their aim was to visit with officials of the central Iowa school district, which has been participating in partial-day sharing with East Greene and Paton-Churdan for a number of years, to gauge if such a transition would work for Ruthven-Ayrshire.
The district study team was established during the 2010-11 school year to explore ways to keep the district "financially stable and to look at possible options for sharing students and/or staff with neighboring school districts," Superintendent Norene Bunt explained.
Team members, meanwhile, decided on the following order of priorities:
|1.||To keep going as is with all students and staff at Ruthven-Ayrshire.|
|2.||To explore sharing staff and/or using online classes.|
|3.||To engage in partial sharing, where students or staff are shared with another district for part of a school day.|
|4.||To engage in whole-grade sharing, where certain grade levels attend school in a neighboring district.|
Tuesday afternoon, R-A study team members also met with the Paton-Churdan superintendent on their way back to Ruthven.