After two "no" votes, Iron Range Schools co-location project stopped for now

By KBJR News 1

April 28, 2014 Updated Apr 28, 2014 at 8:42 PM CST

Virginia, MN (NNCNOW.com) - It appears a plan to co-locate several schools on the Iron Range is dead Monday night following two separate school board votes.

The estimated $110 million project calls for the co-location of school districts in Virginia, Mountain Iron–Buhl and Eveleth–Gilbert.

95 percent of those in attendance opposed the plan, and had the school board approved a Joint Powers Agreement, they said that trust would be lost, and ties would be severed between the community and school board.

Members of the public along with teachers packed the Roosevelt Gymnasium with waves of "Blue Devil" color in their clothing for Monday nights' controversial vote.

The Virginia School Board voted twice on forming a joint powers agreement, which would be the foundation of collocating the schools.
Both times they tied, and the second tie resulted in the failed vote.

Teachers who've been working without a contract for over 300 days say they need to be kept at the forefront of the debate.

"The teachers right now are still in a fact gathering state," said Julie Sandstede, standing in front of dozens of teachers holding signs and wearing blue "I Teach" tees. " We don't have enough information right now to make an informed decision one way or another about this. There's a lot of emotion behind this, and a lot of rumor."

Meanwhile, in a five to one vote tonight, the Eveleth–Gilbert School District decided to dump the Joint Powers Agreement and rescind talks altogether.

This doesn't mean all talks are over.

For now, school officials still plan to meet on May 6th to talk about the process and figure out if they can move forward in another direction.

And a significant amount of those opposing the JPA also showed a possible willingness to turn the issue of fixing up the Virginia School District into a bond issue.

When asked by the School Board, about 50 percent of those in attendance gave anything from moderate applause, to a standing ovation, in support of a tax increase to help fix Virginia High School.

Billy Wagness
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