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.