Discussion of partial-day sharing continued at the Ruthven-Ayrshire regular school board meeting Monday evening. Members of the board reviewed the proposal from Graettinger-Terril and additional information provided by guests from GT School, including superintendent, Jesse Ulrich, secondary principal, Teresa Alesch and school counselor, Natasha Nelson.
Course offerings were reviewed, which included a variety of elective courses with the addition of an Industrial Tech program. The biggest concern for the board is math because it's the core course being shared. "Currently, I think we are fine," stated Ulrich. "We have some flexibility in our scheduling but if needed we would add staff to accommodate that."
Sharing with GT would provide the opportunity to take college classes on campus or through online or television formats for college credit.
GT would prefer if they shared classes in the afternoon to work logistically with sports sharing after school. Core classes would be held at each school in the morning with the majority of elective classes in the afternoon with the exception of math.
"Combining the two schools would make an ideal class size for instruction. That's what makes this all work at the end of the day," said Ulrich. "There's got to be a trust level that we're not going to put so many kids in a class that the education level is going to deteriorate. It's not good for your kids, it's not good for our kids and it's not good for any kids."
Concern was expressed regarding communication across schools when a student may need additional help. "Luckily, you're going to be able to email and Skype for additional information," said Ulrich. "Our teachers are going to be just as accessible as they would be here whether it by an email or phone call away. Communication has really improved in our kids."
"The reason we proposed it the way we did, is we want to be very respectful of RA goals," stated Ulrich. "The way that we structured it with a guaranteed two year contract, was for both of us to figure out if it's going to work and get the kinks figured out in the first year. Then we can continue to talk and help each other in the future." Ulrich anticipates bumps along the way. "The goal is to not overtake either school but to work together so both schools can be financially stable."
Expected revenue for GT from sharing would be minimal. "For us, it's pretty much a break even," said Ulrich. "So what do we plan on doing and how does that affect you guys? We plan to maintain a good relationship. We don't want your solution to be swallow up Graettinger-Terril and we don't want our solution to be swallow up Ruthven-Ayrshire. We want a willing partner to collaborate with to make our goals happen. That's why we got the two-year because we're recognizing that you want your high school and you should. Everybody wants their high school and we want to help you get there. At the same time, we are hoping through a positive relationship when both of our inevitables on "what do we do" happen, then we sit at the same table and talk of the future and formulate a long term plan so we don't have to do this every couple years."
RA President, Barry Fischer, brought up academically and athletically sharing with the same school. "You need to make your academics your priority over sports," said board member, Ray Grandstaff. "I think we need to lay them side by side and see where the kids have the most opportunities,"
When asked if they were looking for full grade sharing down the road, Ulrich replied, "Eventually part-day doesn't get you guys where you need to be either. Down the road, we would love to come back to the table and talk full-grade sharing. That's why we have come back with a proposal to help you meet your needs and at the same time maintain a great relationship. But down the road I think it's inevitable for both of us to have that conversation."
"The line we really need to be concerned with is our line," said Fischer. Looking for a partial day sharing partner, we're going to have to also do some other things to get that line to straighten out. We're going to need to be as proficient as possible but that's why it's hard to predict."
Fischer challenged the group, "Who do we see as our next step?"
"Shall we continue dancing with two partners? Is it time to make a decision?" asked board member, Larry Conlon.
It was agreed to stay focused on the original goal of partial day sharing and not the tendency to eventually lead to whole-grade sharing. Board members are weighing their options and taking both offers into consideration.
It was moved by Conlon to send the proposal draft with amendments back to Emmetsburg and table the GT offer.