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Iowa Department of Ed recommends A-R/ELC

By Staff | Jul 2, 2010

A June 14 report by the Iowa Department of Education says a merger between Armstrong-Ringsted Consolidated School District and Estherville Lincoln Central Community School District would be the best option for A-R’s long-term viability.

The report by DOE consultants Del Hoover and Barbara Byrd points to declining A-R enrollments with a continuation of that trend.

“Merging with another small district may not be as good a consideration as merging or combining services with multiple smaller districts or looking to a larger district with higher enrollment numbers,” the report stated.

A-R has recently revived sharing talks with North Kossuth and Sentral school districts. The other two districts put sharing talks on hold as they entered a five-year whole-grade sharing agreement now entering its third year. The A-R and ELC boards met this spring after sharing talks with North Kossuth and Sentral appeared to be at a standstill.

“At the rate of decline the last three years, with no adjustments to spending/revenues, Armstrong-Ringsted could possibly have a negative unspent balance by FY10 or FY11,” the report continued. “The district would be wise to take proactive steps toward sharing, reorganization or dissolution.”

“Estherville Lincoln would provide the most long-term viability,” the report recommended. “It is very possible with this configuration, however, that attendance centers would not be maintained in Armstrong or Ringsted.”

The report also endorses reorganization of A-R, North Kossuth and Sentral into a single district.

“The second option would be for Armstrong-Ringsted, North Kossuth, and Sentral to explore reorganization as one district. This reorganization could be a viable option, providing stability for the foreseeable future. This would depend, however, on all three districts agreeing to reopen conversations and looking at future options from a fresh perspective. An outside facilitator might be helpful in opening these conversations.”

At its year-end meeting Wednesday night, the A-R Board of Education agreed to seek out an independent third party that might help coordinate the next tri-board meeting 6:30 p.m. July 21 at Sentral.