East Range shared school plan having bumpy roll-out

Iron Range newsOne of the biggest stories on the Mesabi Iron Range this year has been the proposal to build a new co-located high school in Mountain Iron that would serve students in the Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert and Mountain Iron-Buhl school districts.

Education NewsJana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News Tribune penned a Sunday feature on the shared high school plan, interviewing a wide range of stake holders.

The reviews, it would seem, really are mixed; except in one regard. People seem to understand what consolidation means, both the pros and cons, but almost no one seems to get how a co-located school with three distinct school identities would ever work. The reality is that this is a pathway to consolidation. There are good and bad things about consolidating these districts, but in trying to have it both ways backers of the new school may find themselves losing more support than they’d hoped to gain in doing it this way.

Meantime, at the legislature, a bill to create a taconite tax fund to help pay for cooperative school ventures is still alive. While it was crafted with this east Range project in mind, should it prevail it would be available for other Iron Range districts to consider sharing their resources to better serve students in the future.

I’d encourage you to read the DNT story for some of the perspectives bouncing back and forth.

Meantime, for some knowledge of the local situation, read this story from the Mesabi Daily News, which has fully deployed its patented passive aggressive “journo-jitsu” attack moves on the project. I mean, check out the lede:

Some Mountain Iron-Buhl officials aren’t pleased that the public is getting information, without their approval, on the proposed grades 7-12 school co-location plan for the Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert and Mountain Iron-Buhl districts.

Woof. The MDN normally saves this kind of hatchet job for the environmental movement.

My two cents is this: What is the “heart of a community?” Many opponents of school consolidation say the school is the heart of any community. I’d argue that’s almost correct, but not quite. The heart of any community is young families. They drive economic activity, innovation, entrepreneurship and community activity. If you have enough young families in a town, there will be a good school in that town. Period.

The problem we’ve got here isn’t that closing three large Iron Range schools would “kill the heart of the community.” The problem we’ve got is that demographics have already done that. Past tense. So the optimal question in this debate is “what would help attract and support young families to these communities, while also preparing all children for college and the workforce of this century?”

This is a tough question.


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