Schools look to cooperate

ARMSTRONG – Three northern Iowa school districts that have been involved in whole-grade sharing are looking to continue their relationship.

It will be on different terms, though, as two of the schools are consolidating.

There is currently a three-way agreement among Armstrong-Ringsted, Sentral and North Kossuth. But with Armstrong-Ringsted and Sentral set to merge, the pact among all three will become null and void. A new agreement between North Kossuth and the newly formed North Union will need to be put in place.

On Monday evening, North Union’s school board, consisting of select members from Armstrong-Ringsted and Sentral, approved an intent to negotiate a new sharing agreement with North Kossuth.

“I had Rick Engel (attorney for North Union and North Kossuth) bring up the current agreement and just change the dates as a starting point,” said Matt Berninghaus, superintendent at Armstrong-Ringsted and acting North Union superintendent. “But both districts still have the opportunity to amend it.”

The contract would be for five years, with current services remaining the same. This includes the current grade structure of 9-12 in Armstrong, 6-8 in Swea City, and two sites for K-5, one at North Kossuth and the other in the Fenton building in Sentral’s district.

“Eventually, I would like to see all the elementary students together in one building,” said board member Cory Culbertson. “I think it would be beneficial to have all the students together and learning the same things together.”

“It is important to have congruity between the two districts,” said board member Jen Von Bank. “We do want to make sure each building is on the same page, and when they take that next step to middle school, they are properly prepared.”

Berninghaus said the districts have been working closely together to make sure the two elementary curriculums are on track.

With both districts announcing an intent to negotiate a new sharing arrangement, the districts will now start to hash out the details.

Each school board will then approve a consensus draft of the agreement for the purpose of proceeding to public hearings.

Following the public hearings, each school board must wait at least 30 days before approving the agreement.

The agreement cannot be approved any earlier than Nov. 24, but no later than Feb. 1 in order to be in place for the 2014-15 school year.

In other business Monday, the North Union school board discussed director districts and election cycles.

Berninghaus said Armstrong is an election district unto itself, while the Sentral district is another. The outer Armstrong-Ringsted district area, including Ringsted, serves as a third.

The North Union school board will consist of at least one representative from each of these three districts, along with two at-large positions.