Prior to the Anamosa school board’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Anamosa and Olin school boards, along with the superintendents, met in a work session to discuss the impact of the new whole grade sharing agreement between Olin and Midland.
Olin signed a five-year extension in January of 2018 to continue sending Olin students in grades seven through 12 to Anamosa but earlier this year also entered into a second agreement with the Midland district to allow students to go there as well.
For the Anamosa school board members, they said they were caught off guard by a perceived lack of communication about a new agreement.
Board Members Nicole Classen and Kristine Kilburg both stated that they felt there was a lack of communication between the two boards during that process.
Board Member Matt McQuillen said while it didn’t technically change the agreement with Anamosa, it changed the circumstances. The agreement between the districts was viewed as an exclusive one by the Anamosa district. During the discussion, it was mentioned that the whole grade sharing agreement between Olin and Anamosa stated that “Olin students in grades 7-12 attend school in Anamosa.”
Superintendent David Larson said by entering into the new agreement, Olin was not saying there was any issue with the agreement with Anamosa.
“There’s nothing that Anamosa has done within our current agreement that’s been a negative to Olin. I think we’ve had a very good relationship,” he said.
Hunt concurred with Larson’s assessment.
“We’re on the same page. We feel like we’ve had a good sharing agreement with Olin over the last few years,” he said.
Larson said they had no pre-knowledge that they were going to enter into the agreement, and early discussions with Midland made it seem like it wouldn’t work out. However, after Midland agreed to take the money from the additional students in the form of SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) money to allow Olin to keep the general fund money and Midland to build up their SAVE funds for infrastructure work, the agreement moved forward.
The district is currently in year three of a five-year plan to sure up their finances after being forced to go before the School Budget Review Committee.
The other reason Larson said the district moved forward with the agreement is that some families expressed interest in having a choice where students could attend, with some families expressing interest in having students attend a smaller district more similar to Olin’s size.
The concern with the agreement was the uncertainty the boards felt with how things would shake out. With the Anamosa district having to cut about $350,000 from this year’s budget and more cuts likely next year, officials expressed concern about the impact it could have on the district’s financials and the uncertainty of not knowing how many kids would be lost.
“Part of the issue is we don’t know who those kids are. We don’t know who we’re going to keep and how many are going to go,” Hunt said.
To try to address that in the future, the possibility was discussed for amending the agreements and putting in a declaration date to give the district more certainty when it came to constructing their budget.
Another source of uncertainty is a section of state code saying that it says boundaries “shall be” drawn with multiple sharing agreements.
From Olin’s point of view, Larson said in a similar agreement with Bennett having whole grade sharing with both Durant and Tipton, no boundaries were ever drawn. He also noted that drawing boundaries could undercut the goal of the two sharing agreements if students on the other side of whatever line was drawn were forced to open enroll, changing the financials of the deal.
Drawing up boundaries, it was agreed, was the role of the Olin school board, and Larson said to dilute the amount of confusion, he would put out a survey to try to get a handle on what the numbers would look like and see if there was an easy spot to draw a line if the district was forced by the state to draw boundaries.
At the end of the meeting, Olin school board member Rosanne Brown said she didn’t want to see this ruin the agreement.
“I wanted this meeting because I didn’t want that bad blood because I love Anamosa,” she said. “I believe that we have a very good relationship…We have every intention of continuing past the five-year agreement. In our mind, it’s a permanent relationship.”