About 40 members of the Aurelia and Alta communities were present at the Alta Middle School Coomons Monday evening as the Aurelia and Alta school boards explored future possible sharing between the two districts.
The boards and their superintendents shared their needs and enrollment trends. The specific agenda items included discussions of sharing opportunities in the areas of:
1. Staff Development.
2. Programs and staff in subject areas which have been designated by the state Department of Education as having a shortage of available teachers.
3. Activity programs - including sports, music, speech, DECA and JETS.
Aurelia has 311 students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, a decrease of 25 from last year's 336. Aurelia's peak enrollment, in 1994-95, was 434. This year, Aurelia has 123 high school students, an average of 31 per class, with the sophomore class being the largest class at 38 students, and the freshman class being the smallest, with 19 students. The middle school, grades 5 - 8, has 80 students this year, an average of 20 students per class, with only 12 students in the 7th grade. The middle school football team had only 13 players this year, playing 8-man football. There are 101 students in TK - 4, making an average class size of 16 - 17.
Alta has an enrollment of 606 this year, down five from last year. The high school class sizes are in the 50s, middle school in the 40s and 50s, and the elementary classes about 30 - 34 per class, according to Fred Maharry, superintendent.
In a discussion of possible next steps, the Aurelia board stressed that it is in a "fact-finding mode", and plans to talk to other area schools as well, but stressed that Alta should not feel that this reflects a disinterest in sharing with Alta. The Aurelia Board feels that they owe it to the Aurelia community to investigate all possibilities. They did say that something definitely needs to be done because the declining enrollment trend does not seem to be improving.
With that, the floor was turned over to the guests for a public forum. Everyone was given a chance to voice opinions or ask questions, but only a few people chose to do so. One audience member stated that "Everybody needs to think of what's best for our kids."
Another asked how quickly any sharing could be implemented. Tom Vint, Aurelia superintendent, had mentioned, for example, that it would be nice to share junior high wrestling this year, because Aurelia will only have 3 - 7 wrestlers and, at this point, does not have a junior high wrestling coach either (wrestling begins in January). Kirk Nelson, Aurelia board member, stated that the board needs to "continue moving forward, collect all available information, and make those decisions."
A final audience member asked about the Aurelia- Galva-Holstein wrestling agreement, and whether that would conflict with any other proposed agreements with other schools. Vint said that this agreement has been on a year-to-year basis, and he's really not sure how many people are planning to come out for wrestling in future years.
The meeting ended at 8 p.m., precisely one hour after it was called to order. No further joint meetings are scheduled at this time.