A fascinating story by Elizabeth Dunbar at Minnesota Public Radio details the woes of the St. Louis County school district and the consulting firm it followed in implementing a vast consolidation and construction plan last year.
A plan narrowly approved by voters in the seven communities of the large, rural district closed or reduced function of five schools, built two new ones and remodeled another. The promise made by Johnson Controls, the firm the district hired to plan its options, was that this would preserve the solvency of the district and its ability to serve students.
Well, the district is still in the red. The consolidation plan isn’t the only reason why, but for the communities already put through the wringer on this issue this is profoundly disappointing.
The St. Louis County schools compose a fairly unique district. Almost all rural, many of these schools cover wide areas. Some students in the district live near Iron Range towns and have the option of attending larger schools (increasingly they are). But the same schools serve distant outposts of woods and wilderness and students who don’t have anywhere else to go. This is a real test case for the “Minnesota Miracle,” or the concept that the state serves all students equally regardless of where they live.