Range schools will consolidate, but how?

One of the “controversial” Iron Range political topics I’ve waded through since my earliest days as an editorial writer has been school district consolidation. Most Iron Rangers are raised to fight consolidation. In a place losing population like the Iron Range, consolidation always brings school closures. But at the same time, declining enrollment strangles our schools to death and with them the upward mobility of our students. On KAXE, I recently floated the idea of “one Iron Range school district” with large regional schools serving “hubs” and smaller schools filling specialty purposes like technical training, advanced placement and alternative education. Has anyone run numbers on this? It’s not a new idea. Actually, it was recommended in a 1968 comprehensive plan for the Iron Range that I am trying to get my hands on.

Anyway, the alternative to doing this with our eyes open and our free will intact is to allow collapsing budgets force the issue.

Kidding aside, all of this is overdue and being done under budgetary gunpoint. There has to be a better way.


  1. Budgetary reason might be the most obvious reasons for the proposed school district changes, but this is only what makes changes urgent. The reality behind everything is declining enrollment. Even with an infusion of mega bucks, a number of the schools are too small to have adequate class choices and offerings.

    My first child graduated from ISD 2142 in 1998, my last one in 2005. There were changes, ie fewer choices, from my first, who was in a three section class size, to the last who was in a two section class size. But now the schools are down to one section class sizes, and that makes scheduling any extra offerings almost impossible. I can think of 5 class offerings that my oldest took that are not available within the school currently.

    Open enrollment takes kids out of districts to go to schools with more choices.

    I attended the largest school (3 grade high school of 3600 kids) in a 5 state area in the mid ’60’s. I was more than pleased with sending my kids to a small ISD 2142 school in comparison to my experience. But, as I said, the school had more class choices when they attended.

    Without getting into details, let me just say that the classes that have been dropped could never be available with technology, such as internet classes. Some things just have to be done in a classroom with a teacher present. A good teacher.

  2. A former Eveleth-Gilbert teacher, IT support person in Greenway, a graduate of Grand Rapids, a former IT administrator in a central MN ISD, and a recent returner to the Iron Range, I fully support a drastic and enormous overhaul of the entire Iron Range area educational structure. There are sooooo many ways to do it and I know I don’t know half of what I should.

    I did my student teaching in the Anoka-Hennipen ISD and found it worked quite well having 4 different High Schools, 30+ Elementary schools, and many others in between managed by one central administration. We could have an East Range and a West Range district and still allow our communities to retain their “identities”.

    Cost savings would be realized immeidately in administrative staffing costs (superintendents make more than $100,000 per year and it’s super hard to find a good one), bussing (kids go to Grand Rapids even though it’d be closer to go to Greenway, etc.), Special Education(a district just needs one Special Education director in each district to qualify for substantial state aid rather than contracting these services out from a regional center), curriculum costs, Information Technology (aggreeing on one student information system or financial management system to share among all can save hundreds of thousands of dollars – and I’m not exaggerating)….And think about everything purchased in bulk – from textbooks to software to desks to computers… There are many ways to save money.

    I can go on and on and on.

    Most people who have grown up here and experienced education in other communities can see a need for this.

    If a group is ever pulled together to look into this, please let me know. I’d love to be a part of it!

  3. Thanks to you both for the insightful comments. I hope to take this to the next level at some point. I’m planning to write a column soon and push the issue with local school boards. I hope to enlist your support at that time!

  4. Aaron – check at the Research Center for a copy of that report. If not in the Library, Archives might have it somewhere.

  5. Heather says

    I’ll be there supporting in any way I can.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.