Consolidation vote set for June 25

ARMSTRONG – The future of the Armstrong-Ringsted and Sentral school districts now is in the hands of the voters, but Armstrong-Ringsted’s school board is already thinking about what’s next if the result on June 25 is a “yes” to a merger.

“A lot of people don’t understand the difference between the whole-grade sharing and reorganization,” school board vice-president Jen Von Bank said Monday.

If the vote to reorganize passes, the newly formed North Union district will need to work out a new whole-grade sharing contract with North Kossuth. Currently, the agreement is among all three districts. But it states that if one of them reorganizes with another district, a new contract must be negotiated.

There is also the question of which school board members will be part of the newly formed North Union school board.

“I’m done [with my current term] in September,” Von Bank said. “I think it will be confusing, because I’m confused.”

Three A-R board positions are up for re-election in September. Superintendent Matt Berninghaus said there will still need to be a full A-R school board for 2013-14.

“Some of them may be a short term that only goes to July 1,” he said.

The North Union school board will be comprised of citizens from the current A-R district, from the current Sentral district, and include an “at-large” position.

Board president Jim Boyer reminded the board that the reorganization is not official until voters have their say.

“We have 45 days after June 25,” he said. “Trying to decide some of this now is putting the cart before the horse … It’s been a lot of work, and we still have a lot ahead of us.”

So far, the board has reported having little negative feedback in regard to consolidation.

“I appreciate all that everyone has done,” Boyer said. “I feel confident that this is going to pass.”

In other business?Monday, the board approved a transportation recommendation to begin leasing school buses instead of purchasing. Berninghaus said that rotating buses on three-year leases will save on maintenance costs, and leasing buses is becoming more popular in smaller Iowa schools.

“Many are just like us,” he said. “They’re getting smaller, so they’re sharing or consolidating, and getting these bigger 84-seat buses to do all this shuttling.”