Mt. Iron-Buhl OKs $29 million school

The current Mountain Iron-Buhl High School in Mountain Iron, Minnesota.

The current Mountain Iron-Buhl High School in Mountain Iron, Minnesota.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, May 3, Mountain Iron-Buhl voters approved the bond referendum, paving the way for the new school proposal to move forward.

The original piece, published May 2 follows:

Voters in the Mountain Iron-Buhl school district will decide Tuesday on whether to accept a $29 million plan to build a new high school on Highway 169.

You might recall that the IRRRB took the unprecedented step of authorizing the lion’s share of the price tag, so long as MI-B voters footed 15 percent in a bond referendum.

The IRRRB funding comes from a special fund established for school district collaboration. A smaller portion of funding will come from a special state fund.

Under this agreement, St. Louis County Schools will provide human resources services and other behind-the-scenes functions, as well as exploring a possible shared superintendent. Jerry Burnes at the Mesabi Daily News provided details in a recent story.

Those close to the situation say eventual consolidation with the county schools is a possibility, depending on enrollment trends over the next few years.

As it stands, MI-B superintendent John Klarich and St. Louis County Schools superintendent Steve Sallee say only collaboration is on the table at first. The two districts are looking into sharing vocational education programs and music and arts programs. Those two areas have been badly diminished as the districts struggle with declining enrollment.

MI-B is only a few miles from Cherry, the most central campus in the county schools. Much of the sharing would occur between those two schools. Cherry was remodeled just a few years ago as part of ISD 2142’s controversial reorganization plan.

Both schools have had graduating classes of about 25-35 students in recent years.

The IRRRB fund providing most of the backing for the new MI-B high school was designed to encourage innovation among shrinking school districts, either through consolidation plans or shared curriculum. At the time, the fund was created to support a proposed shared high school by the Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert and MI-B districts. That plan blew up in a wave of public opposition, owing mostly to the strange assertion that a shared high school would be able to support three district sports teams and mascots.

This new MI-B plan is also drawing heat for its focus on athletic facilities, according to the MDN story. It is a cold reality that Iron Range districts are often at least partially ruled by community sentiment toward sports teams and athletic traditions.

Nevertheless, Mountain Iron-Buhl’s current high school is badly outdated and it is time for the district to make a decision about its future. Once again, however, the necessary word “consolidation” is being treated gingerly, the way you wrap a dog’s heart pill in cheese.

On Tuesday, MI-B voters will have their say.

Comments

  1. Gray Camp says:

    Is the IRRRB ok with MIB using this “special fund”, or was there a major screw-up in the writing of the requirements for school districts to utilize this fund?

    • The IRRRB approved this deal in December contingent on the district being able to pass Tuesday’s referendum. It was not without controversy. Many questions were asked at the time. It’s a much more thin definition of “collaboration” than had originally been intended. But ultimately, the argument that the sharing of services between MIB and SLC schools was accepted.

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