Virginia and Mt. Iron-Buhl mull combined high school

Iron Range newsTwo school districts on the east central Mesabi Iron Range are considering a landmark deal to build a shared high school.

School officials in Virginia and Mt. Iron-Buhl are planning two public hearings on the idea next week. The first is Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Parkview in Virginia at 6 p.m.; the second is Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Merritt Elementary in Mountain Iron, also at 6 p.m.

School consolidations are generally met with a frosty reception on the Iron Range, which is why this is being pitched as just a “shared high school” between two independent districts. They plan to maintain separate school boards and, to the degree possible, separate extracurricular teams. That seems more like a political gambit than a plausible idea. The reality is that, if things work well, the districts would have a road map to a functional consolidation and there wouldn’t be as much argument about it after the fact.

Naturally, groups have cropped up for and against the move.


I’ve written about consolidation before; generally in favor. All Iron Range schools should strongly consider consolidating into schools that A) offer world class technical and advanced classes, B) enjoy stable enrollment, and C) are located in logical regional centers. It’s not a new idea; Iron Range planners once predicted just three high schools for the Iron Range (Grand Rapids area, Hibbing area and Virginia area) back in 1969 — 45 years ago!

I understand the role a high school plays in a small town; but dying schools create dying imagination, which cause the towns to die a worse death. We have to figure out how to rejuvenate our towns, with or without schools, all across the Range. Let’s not forget that only an elite education gives our children a fighting chance to compete with a mostly-suburban generation of Americans. We must not be good enough. We must be better. That was the secret to the post-WWII success of the Iron Range. It will be the same secret that lifts us out of our current doldrums.

What Virginia and MI-B are doing is one way to broach this topic, but several other Range schools are facing similar problems. Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin should consolidate, but the communities have fought that off (to their own detriment). Perhaps they will see a way forward from this. Frankly, Itasca County could consolidate into one district since so many different programs are shared among the schools anyway. Then you could build the schools you need; close the ones you don’t — based on enrollment.

Hibbing and Chisholm. Heck, even Eveleth-Gilbert chould consider jumping into the fray with Virginia and MI-B. It’s time to think about course offerings and quality, not mediocre sports teams that wear one particular color instead of another particular color.




  1. When ISD 2142 (St. Louis Co Schools) did their consolidating/rearranging/rebuilding, the most disappointing thing to me was the strong arguments, for and against, that had nothing to do with enhancing education. Yes, there are other issues, but it seems that the parents were stuck on what went on when they were students. Lets hope that Virginia and Mt Iron can put education first. They are really close together. But what about Buhl? It isn’t as close.

    • Forgot to mention that I was asked to write to the Virginia School Superintendent in support of keeping the wonderful auditorium at the Virginia School. I’m not sure if that should make me for or against the consolidation or not. They are talking about keeping extras (sports???, Music???) separate. But wouldn’t that mean running/heating/upkeeping three buildings? Any “solution” is sure to have detractors.

  2. Consolidation is logical, common sense for all the reasons mentioned. Greenway with Nashwauk/Keewatin was a mistake though…started and continues because of blood relatives. N/K should tie with Hibbing and everything west of there with the Grand Rapids Indians…including Big Fork and Deer River.

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