The Ruthven-Ayrshire school board met with the Emmetsburg school board Monday night for the first joint board meeting since opening talks of a partial-day sharing agreement between the schools.
"The goal of a partial-day sharing agreement is to provide quality education and to provide financial stability," Ruthven-Ayrshire Superintendent Andrew Woiwood said. "We're looking at the agreement obviously because of our financial situation, but we need something that still provides a quality education to our kids. We're looking for a partner in that."
Woiwood noted Emmetsburg as an ideal partner because of their "reputation for quality education."
In their sharing agreement, Ruthven-Ayrshire students would attend Emmetsburg for the first four classes of the day and would take electives and math classes there. Their core classes would still be held at Ruthven-Ayrshire.
"Our students will have more elective choices at Emmetsburg than they do now at Ruthven-Ayrshire," Woiwood said. "It's an advantage for our students to have that opportunity."
Emmetsburg Superintendent John Joynt is "confident" that the schools will be able to come to an agreement.
"Emmetsburg has never done a contract like this before," Joynt said. "We're looking for a long-term commitment so that we can plan for our future."
As the sharing agreement is now written, Ruthven-Ayrshire would pay Emmetsburg 50 percent tuition for the first year, then increase the tuition by 10 percent each year for the next three years. By Fiscal Year 2017, which coincides with the 2016-2017 school year, Ruthven-Ayrshire will be paying Emmetsburg 80 percent tuition.
For the time being, partial-day sharing qualifies for supplemental weighting from the state. While Ruthven-Ayrshire would not see any reimbursement in the first year and only half of the reimbursement in the second year, by the third year they would be fully supplemented.
Because of the delay in supplemental weighting, Ruthven-Ayrshire suggested paying tuition at a rate of 50 percent for the first two years, then increasing by 10 percent for each of the next two years, resulting in a 70 percent tuition by Fiscal Year 2017.
"We need that bit of a buy-in until we receive the money from the state," Ruthven-Ayrshire Board President Barry Fischer said.
With 71 students in four periods at Emmetsburg, Ruthven-Ayrshire would pay $106,000 to Emmetsburg for each year they retain a 50 percent tuition rate. The tuition increases to $128,000 at 60 percent tuition, $149,000 at 70 percent tuition, and $170,000 at 80 percent tuition.
While 71 students is considered a high number by both districts, even a two percent allowable growth would "put Ruthven-Ayrshire in the red by 2017," noted Ruthven-Ayrshire board member Larry Conlon.
A "realistic number," according to the Ruthven-Ayrshire board, would include 60 students attending morning classes at Emmetsburg.
Ruthven-Ayrshire would likely be also transitioning into a one-to-one technology program over the summer, to coincide with Emmetsburg's technology.
"We're looking at buying the same computers as Emmetsburg," Woiwood said. "Cloud storage will help our students access their information from either school or from home."
Several other concerns were voiced and addressed by the board members. Fischer wondered if Emmetsburg administration would consider teachers cut from Ruthven-Ayrshire, should Emmetsburg need to hire additional staff. Joynt noted that, while they would not guarantee the immediate hire, Ruthven-Ayrshire teachers would be able to submit their application.
Joynt and the Emmetsburg board asked Ruthven-Ayrshire to calculate a financial representation of what the sharing agreement would look like, using a more accurate set of student numbers.
"Of course we'd like more funding," Joynt said, "but we'd also like to see more realistic numbers. We'd like to see a long-term agreement between Ruthven-Ayrshire and Emmetsburg."