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Eveleth-Gilbert Drops Out of Shared School Talks; Virginia to Rethink District Cooperation Plans

Updated: 04/28/2014 10:24 PM
Created: 04/28/2014 10:14 PM WDIO.com

Talks about opening a multi-district school on the Iron Range face a new, big challenge.

Virginia School Board Member Tim Riordan told Eyewitness News that the Eveleth-Gilbert District dropped out of the conversation completely with a vote in their Monday night meeting.

The meeting happened within an hour of a Virginia School District meeting, and one in the Mt. Iron-Buhl District. Each district took up items on their agendas called a "Joint Powers Agreement." Mt. Iron-Buhl passed the item, but it failed in Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia, according to Riordan.

The agreement would have furthered a plan to open a more than $100 million shared school near Merritt Elementary in Mt. Iron. Seventh through 12th graders from all three districts would learn under the same roof. According to Virginia School Board Member Bill Hafdahl, the agreement also would have turned a the committee devoted to the new school, into a board. He said that would have allowed the group more freedom to make decisions without having to go through the districts' school boards. 

Hundreds of teachers, students and community members packed the bleachers in the Virginia High School gym to urge board members to vote down the agreement. Nearly 30 people stepped up to the microphone to speak, and every person encouraged board members to cast a no vote.

Hafdahl was one of three board members voting in favor, but the agreement didn't have enough support to pass. Ahead of the vote he told us he wasn't convinced the project would make it to the finish line as proposed.

"Eventually I think some of the financial issues of the current plan are major obstacles which may morph this plan into a consolidation. I don't want to stop the process now without having fully reviewed and tried to push the envelope with these questions," Hafdahl said. 

The process has hit a roadblock, but even so, board members say conversation on school district cooperation will continue in some capacity soon. Another meeting is scheduled for May 6.

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