Representatives of the Aurelia School Board have met informally with Cherokee School board representatives to discuss sharing possibilities. The Aurelia Board has also received a proposal for two-way sharing from the Alta School Board. Now they must consider which, if either, neighbor district to partner with in best serving the students from Aurelia.
Aurelia School Board President Jim Hultgren and member Dan Winterhof along with Superintendent Lynn Evans met with two Cherokee board members and their superintendent the first week in January. Winterhof described the visit as having "more warmth and being more congenial than when we met last. It was a positive experience."
Winterhof went on to say each district was discussed, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each and the representatives of each of the districts pointed out what they see down the road.
One area of great interest that could be a "win-win" decision for both districts, he said, is to possibly share the new transportation director with the Cherokee district. A great deal of maintenance work on the school vehicles could be done in-house to save funds. The state does provide incentives for this type of sharing, it was pointed out.
If this sharing would take place it would enhance the transportation department and not replace the director that Aurelia now has, they said.
The talks with Cherokee were a "good opportunity to touch base and explore avenues" to take in the future.
An informal meeting was held early this fall with two board members of Alta and two of Aurelia and the same topics were discussed.
The proposal from the Alta board simply stated, "the Alta Board is willing to discuss two-way whole grade sharing between the districts with high school students educated at Alta and some grades in Aurelia."
"We want to thank them for the initiative for a two-way (sharing proposal). That is a change from the past," said Aurelia School Board President Jim Hultgren at the school board meeting held Friday, the first time the board has discussed the proposal. "How quickly should we respond to this?" he asked.
It was pointed out that if sharing were to take place next school year that the state requires an agreement to be in place by Feb. 1. "How comfortable do you feel moving along this quickly?" Hultgren asked his board.
Member Paul Pingel stated he needed more than 14 days to "hammer out" a decision that will be the best for the students at Aurelia.
Member Dan Winterhof added that in the past, the board has heard from different speakers who have discussed the whole grade sharing process and they have suggested "not too move too fast. I think there is great value in not going too fast."
It was pointed out that moving too quickly on a decision like this could have adverse effects.
Alta held a community meeting Dec. 19; Hultgren said it is equally important to gather viewpoints from the community. That could take some time.
"That's critical," said Supt. Evans relating to community involvement.
The board decided that Supt. Evans should meet with Alta's Superintendent, Dr. Fred Maharry, to see if there are any other details that can be worked on. They found the proposal somewhat vague.
"It would be nice to know more details and what their definition of 'some' is," Supt. Evans said, in reference to the proposal asking for "some grades to be educated at Aurelia." The meeting can then bring back details to the two boards.
"We need to look at the best interest of the kids," Pingel said. We need to look at all options and take our time and do the right thing."
The board will get together for a work session on Jan. 29. On the agenda will be to discuss the budget, the vision for the district, projected enrollment and where they want to see the district in one, three and five years down the road.
Aurelia's enrollment is at 285 now (five up from the 280 certified on the state count date). While projections are only estimates, it appears that the number will be down to 266 next year.