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R-A examines draft of sharing agreement

Thursday, January 24, 2013

At a well-attended special board meeting Wednesday evening, the Ruthven-Ayrshire school board discussed the proposed official sharing agreement with Emmetsburg Community Schools.

"We have to remember that this is only a draft," Ruthven-Ayrshire Superintendent Andrew Woiwood said. "Anything that we look at here must be approved by both boards. Nothing is in stone yet."

According to the agreement and coinciding schedule and calendar, the high school students would board a bus at 7:55 a.m. for Emmetsburg schools, where they will spend the first four periods of the day. At 11:55 a.m., the students will board the same bus to bring them back to Ruthven-Ayrshire, where they will eat lunch and attend the four afternoon periods. Students who attend a college course that begins before 8 a.m. would be allowed to drive back and forth from Emmetsburg to Ruthven, but all other students would be required to ride the bus.

The classes attended at Emmetsburg will be largely elective; combining the small class sizes benefits both districts, according to Woiwood.

"It's been a very collaborative process," said Principal Jon Josephson, in referring to the talks the administrators from Ruthven-Ayrshire have had with the administrators from Emmetsburg.

While much of the initial work is finished, both Woiwood and Josephson recognize issues that have yet to be worked through. According to the current proposed schedule, all of the technical education classes would be held at Emmetsburg, which affects the introductory technical education classes taught at the middle school level.

"They'll likely be taught by teachers already at the school," Woiwood said. "The middle school exploratory classes do not need to be taught by someone certified in the field. We'll likely choose teachers that have a background in the specific skill they'd be teaching, in order to make the arrangement mutually beneficial."

Additionally, the grading scale at Ruthven-Ayrshire will likely have to be changed.

"We are in the great minority with our grading scale, across the country," Josephson said. "Most schools are on the 90-80-70 scale, including Emmetsburg."

With the school bus leaving for Emmetsburg at 7:55, all of the buses will need to be into the school at that time, having the elementary and middle school students at school about 35 minutes earlier than this year's start time. While the current teacher contract is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., a change in the busing will likely require the hours to change to 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., so that teachers can be in the building with the students.

The elementary and middle school students would also start at 8:10 a.m. instead of 8:30, in order to bridge the time gap before school.

Emmetsburg currently starts school at 8:15 a.m., though they did suggest they would be willing to push their start time back to 8:20 a.m., to accommodate the Ruthven-Ayrshire students coming in.

Included in the classes taught at Emmetsburg are band and choir. With this change, Woiwood and Josephson do not anticipate a pep band at Ruthven-Ayrshire.

Ruthven-Ayrshire students would be able to join Emmetsburg's Black and Gold show choir, which may change its practice time to the school day in order to accommodate the incoming students. The Varsity show choir, which is audition-based, would likely remain available to only Emmetsburg students.

Because Emmestburg is already in a one-to-one system with their technology, Ruthven-Ayrshire is looking to become one-to-one by the beginning of the next school year.

"We knew this day was coming, we're just moving it up to the summer," Josephson said. "We'll be looking at a PPEL or SILO investment into laptops, as well as changes to our infrastructure to support the influx of students logging on when they come back from Emmetsburg."

In its first year, the agreement would dictate a 50 percent tuition from Ruthven-Ayrshire to Emmetsburg. Should the board decide on a four-year contract, Woiwood suggested keeping the tuition at 50 percent for the second year, raising it to 60 percent for the third year, and plateauing the tuition at 70 percent from then on.

Because they would be entering into a partial-day sharing agreement, Ruthven-Ayrshire would receive supplemental weighting from the state to help offset the cost. Though they would receive no additional funds the first year, they would receive half of the previous year's funds the second year, and the full funding amount beginning the third year.

"Seventy percent seems appropriate," Woiwood said, "but the first few years we need to come in with a rate that benefits the district."

Though the changes to be made are drastic, both Woiwood and Josephson are confident that the Ruthven-Ayrshire students will receive the same quality education from this sharing agreement as they received from Ruthven-Ayrshre on its own.

The agreement will inevitably cut staff from Ruthven-Ayrshire. Woiwood, however, stated that he will not disclose exact positions until the final agreement has been agreed upon by both boards.

"I'm not going to talk about specific positions yet," Woiwood said. "I know it's frustrating, and I don't want to be evasive. But I know that we're talking about people's jobs, and we won't definitively say anything until we're sure on what's going to happen here."

"If we didn't have to do this, financially, we wouldn't," he continued. "We're working within the parameters we have left to provide the best education we can."

Ruthven-Ayrshire students, parents and community members will have an opportunity to tour the Emmetsburg school and attend school events at Emmetsburg Monday night beginning at 5:30 p.m.. A joint board meeting between Ruthven-Ayrshire and Emmetsburg will begin at 7:05 p.m.

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Ruthven-Ayrshire school district is in survival mode..plain and simple. I commend the efforts made by the school board and community members trying to figure out and explore what limited options they have to keep the school alive.

I just don't understand their loyalty to Graettinger-Terril School District on keeping the sports sharing agreement. If R-A is going to share classes, band and choir wouldn't the wise choice to be done with Graettinger-Terril all together? The way it will work is the R-A students will go to classes at Emmetsburg, come back to Ruthven for a few classes and then head to Graetinger for sports practices and games. Sounds like a jumbled mess and a lot bus trips back and forth.

It makes no sense.

Sorry that the schools just spent the money on new uniforms,new athletic equiment and gym floors , sorry the kids want to stay part of the new GT-RA Titans, sorry that G-T will share sports but not realistically look at whole grade sharing with Ruthven-Ayrshire as their only option.

G-T is a proud school district--proud of their awards, proud of their teachers and staff, proud of their technology advancements over R-A, proud of their community. We get it..you don't want to give up all your progress and don't want to change a thing. Right now G-T is doing well but flash ahead 3 or 4 years. Eventually Graettinger-Terril School District will be in the same boat as Ruthven-Ayrshire. Who will G-T turn towards? Estherville, Emmetsburg, Ruthven-Ayshire?

Why wait for the inevitable? Really.

The best choice for both R-A and G-T is become a unified school district. It is the most logical choice. If sports sharing is so important then look at that as indicator. The kids are getting along great, the communities are meshing, and they play together as one entity.

I am pleading to the Graetinger-Terril communities to really think about where their school district is headed and keep in mind what is happening to Ruthven-Ayrshire will be you in a couple years.

To become one school district..G-T and R-A will both have to compromise and give up teachers and staff, and make some hard choices but in the end isn't better than losing their complete identity?

-- Posted by claycountyforever on Thu, Jan 24, 2013, at 8:48 AM

Why should the students be forced to ride the bus? I think parents should have the right to make the decision to let their kids drive their own cars to Emmetsburg.

Especially those that live east of Ruthven.

Seems a little dictator-ish to me.

-- Posted by financeman on Thu, Jan 24, 2013, at 9:24 AM

If you didn't have kids riding back on the bus, could you see kids going through a drive though for lunch and then doing an Daytona 500 on 18 to get to class. I wish that G-T and R-A would rethink consolidation.

-- Posted by retiredarmysarge on Thu, Jan 24, 2013, at 5:52 PM

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