The Ruthven-Ayrshire school board met early Friday morning, the first official meeting since deciding against a whole-grade sharing agreement with Graettinger-Terril schools.
"We need to give the administration some direction on what we, the board, would like to do as far as pursuing a partial-day sharing agreement," Board President Barry Fischer said.
Immediately, the board decided that attempting the 2013-14 on their own, without a sharing agreement, was not an option.
Prior to the meeting, Ruthven-Ayrshire Superintendent Andrew Woiwood received a letter from Spencer Superintendent Terry Hemann offering to discuss a sharing agreement between Spencer and Ruthven-Ayrshire.
"I don't like to shut doors," Boardmember Ray Grandstaff said, "but there are some concerns."
The board noted concerns including the distance between Ruthven and Spencer, as well as the survey they collected from the community. On the survey, only 20 percent of the community would support a sharing agreement with Spencer.
"Spencer can't offer better than what we've already been offered," Boardmember Larry Conlon said. "They can't go lower."
Talks with Emmetsburg Community Schools have included a 50 percent tuition rate for a partial-day agreement.
After discussion, the board approved the Ruthven-Ayrshire administration to sit down with the Emmetsburg administration in preliminary talks toward a partial-day sharing agreement, which they will then present before their respective boards.
"Scheduling will be a big issue," Fischer said. "We definitely want to take advantage of the college course offerings, which would make mornings ideal for our students."
Woiwood suggested looking first at the start time for each school. Emmetsburg begins their day at 8:15 a.m. Ruthven-Ayrshire begins their day at 8:30 a.m., but would need to get students on a bus by 7:50 a.m. in order to make it to Emmetsburg by 8:15 a.m.
"Right now we have an eight to four schedule for our teachers," Woiwood said. "If we have kids here before eight, however, we'll also need to have staff here. We may be looking at 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. schedule for teachers. Or we could ask Emmetsburg to start later, at 8:20 or 8:25 a.m."
He continued. "The biggest thing will be once we get the schedules and can show the students what the offerings are. It will be difficult for Emmetsburg, too, to make sure they have course offerings available at times for when we need them, but also at times that work for their district."
Grandstaff suggested sending juniors and seniors to Emmetsburg in the morning and freshmen and sophomores in the afternoon, in order to keep the teaching staff at Ruthven-Ayrshire full-time. With his suggestion, the teachers would teach freshmen and sophomores in the morning, and juniors and seniors in the afternoon.
"Not many teachers can afford to work part-time," Grandstaff said.
"We need to see several different scenarios to see how much Emmetsburg is going to bend to accommodate us," Board Vice President Tracy Enderson said.
Woiwood and the Ruthven-Ayrshire principal will likely meet with Emmetsburg administration the week of Jan. 7, then present their discussion to the board at the next regular meeting. Because they had set aside time for a joint board meeting with Graettinger-Terril on Jan. 23, they have kept that date tentatively open for a joint board meeting with Emmetsburg.
"We need to offer some sort of an update on our status before we offer the public our final contract," Woiwood said.
"We also need to give teachers ample time to plan," Fischer said. "By the end of January, we'll have a good idea as to what the agreement will look like, and we'll know more about what positions we'll need to keep, and which ones we'll need to let go."
Enderson also suggested meeting with the students who open-enrolled from Emmetsburg to Ruthven-Ayrshire.
"Someone needs to sit down and address their concerns as well," she said. "There's a reason they came here."
Also discussed was the athletic sharing agreement Ruthven-Ayrshire currently shares with Graettinger-Terril. The contract was signed for six years, to be reviewed by each board at the end of each year. The agreement is currently one year fulfilled, and has five years remaining.
"We've had a lot of indication from the community to continue with the agreement," Fischer said.
"It works wonderfully," Enderson agreed. "We decided that an academic sharing agreement wouldn't work for us, but the athletic one is working."
"I feel the academic agreement needs to be satisfied before the athletic agreement," Grandstaff said. "We should explore our options."
He continued. "Maybe Emmetsburg would be willing to include us in their name, especially if we share athletics."
Fischer noted the long-standing tradition behind the Emmetsburg mascot.
"Everyone knows where the E-Hawks are from," he said.
A subcommittee consisting of superintendents, board presidents and board vice presidents from Graettinger-Terril met and reconciled after the academic agreement was discontinued. Both schools committed to maintaining the athletic agreement.
"We're in a contract, and it's working. It's business," Enderson said.