10-week sprint to special election for Iron Range school plan

This view from the Highway 53 bridge near Virginia, Minnesota, will greet students as they approach the proposed new shared Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert high school. (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

Following up on an item earlier this week, the Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert school boards unanimously set a special election date of May 14. On that day, voters will render their judgement on a $181 million shared high school plan.

As we established Monday, the measure asks voters to bond for 20 percent of the proposal. The Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and the State of Minnesota would cover the rest using funds designed to encourage small schools to collaborate and save costs.

That leaves about ten weeks for project supporters and opponents to convince voters to either step on the gas or the brakes in this historic decision.

The new school would adopt an “academies model” in its design. Students would choose from different paths. Each path would lead them down interactive, project-based learning tracks. The goal, according to proponents, would be to improve school-to-work placement and career planning. Larger enrollment would also allow more options for college-bound students.

This move would, however, close two high century-old schools in Virginia and Eveleth, respectively. Both district claim renovating the old buildings would end up costing taxpayers more than building this new school.

Further, the new school would likely be located somewhere near the Midway neighborhood between Virginia and Eveleth. As a result, a vast majority of students would need to be driven or bussed to school.

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