Possible merger of Virginia and Mountain Iron-Buhl school districts

By KBJR News 1

January 22, 2014 Updated Jan 22, 2014 at 8:08 PM CDT

Virginia, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Two communities on the Iron Range are hoping to merge school districts, while keeping their own identities.

Aging infrastructure and growing student populations on the Iron Range are some of the reasons many school officials are hoping to merge the Virginia and Mountain Iron–Buhl school districts.

"These buildings that we are currently in are beautiful, they are historic, but they don't serve the needs of our students currently," said Matt Krage, choir director at the Virginia High School.

Krage says the current buildings don't serve the technological needs of the district, and that a new facility would benefit everyone.

The new 7–12 school would be built next to Merritt Elementary in Mountain Iron.

"Our interest is expressly to provide our kids with the greatest opportunities, educationally and academically, possible," said Deron Stender, superintendent of Virginia Public Schools.

At the new school classes would be combined with students from both districts, giving a college campus feel, but sports teams and after school extra curricular activities would remain separate.

"Right now we'd like to keep the independence of the school districts and of the extra curricular teams," said John Klarich, superintendent of Mountain Iron-Buhl schools.

As for funding for the $75-million project, superintendents say they hope to acquire the money through taconite tax dollars.

If funding for the new school is approved, construction could begin as early as this summer.

Neighboring communities on the Iron Range would like to weigh in on the possible merger and will do so at a school board meeting on Thursday in Eveleth.

Two public forums on the proposal will also be held next week.

1) Tuesday, January 28th, at Parkview in Virginia (6pm)
2) Wednesday, January 29th, at Merritt Elementary in Mountain Iron (6pm)

Elsa Robins