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Sentral may partner with A-R

October 27, 2011
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer, Fairmont Sentinel , Fairmont Sentinel

ARMSTRONG - Attempts to reach a three-way whole-grade sharing agreement among Armstrong-Ringsted, North Kossuth and Sentral have so far been unsuccessful. At least one district is considering a new option if a three-way agreement fails.

Art Pixler, superintendent of Sentral schools, says a recent Sentral School Board meeting reinforced the idea of having all three district's elementary students attend the Sentral building if whole-grade sharing goes through. But the school board also believes two-way sharing arrangements need to be considered.

Pixler and a few Sentral board members approached the Armstrong-Ringsted School Board this week, indicating an interest in possible sharing with the district.

"I try not to speak on behalf of the board before they make a decision," Pixler said. "But there is a clause in the contract that both sides could mutually terminate the contract with North Kossuth. The board is aware that it is there. We don't know if that's being discussed by North Kossuth. But we are looking at and considering all options."

Sentral currently is in a sharing agreement with North Kossuth, in a five-year contract that ends in 2013. The contract states that to terminate the deal, the district that wants to end it needs to give an 18-month notice.

"We can't be in an agreement and say in April, 'Next year, we're not doing whole grade sharing,'" Pixler explained. "We've seen this with other districts in Iowa ... There's also the fact that all three districts have the same attorney."

Armstrong-Ringsted Superintendent Randy Collins indicated that while the A-R board is receptive to Sentral's overture, A-R still hopes a three-way sharing agreement that includes North Kossuth can be reached.

"What we took away from this is that we still would prefer if all three districts could somehow compromise, resolve this between North Kossuth and Sentral," he said. "But I think there was a very positive response to Sentral."

"I think we all know on some level that these three districts should get together," Pixler said. "But there's an impasse right now."

During the last tri-board meeting, North Kossuth board president Jeanne Kinney offered a compromise involving sending away its elementary students in exchange for getting the high school.

"There will need to be at least one more tri-board meeting, even though that hasn't been set," Collins said.

The uneasiness also leaches into the current sports-sharing agreement that is in place through 2012-13. During a work session, the majority of Armstrong-Ringsted's board agreed that if a whole-grade sharing agreement is not reached, sports sharing should be discontinued.

In other business, Armstrong-Ringsted is moving forward with plans to close its Ringsted elementary building at the end of this school year.

Collins said that while the board has been open about its plans, it has heard little public comment on the closure.

He said closing the building will strengthen the district's viability, even if a whole-grade sharing agreement is not reached.



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