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Decision on Iron Range school collaboration in voters’ hands

IRON RANGE — Voters on the Iron Range are making a big decision Tuesday that will impact future generations.

The Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia school districts are looking to combine their schools on a more career-driven method, known as the academies model, and they’ve gone to the tax payers for help.

“We’ve done a good job getting information out to the community,” Eveleth-Gilbert Schools Superintendent Jeff Carey said. “They’ve asked good questions. We’ve been on TV, we’ve been in the newspaper, we’ve sent things in the mail, we’ve had public meetings.”

The change includes building a new high school in the Midway area, just off of highway 53, and two new elementary schools. The public is being asked to cover about 19-percent of the nearly $200 million cost.

“People have asked the questions they’ve needed to ask, and now they just need to go vote,” Carey said.

If officials get the outcome they’re hoping for, they say building onto the ground work already in place would begin immediately.

“If we get a positive vote tomorrow, then the fun part begins,” Carey said. “We start planning on new facilities and new educational programs.”

That includes deciding what to do with sports teams, mascots, and school colors.

“That will all be community-driven,” Carey said. “It won’t be anything that the schools decide by themselves.”

If the referendum doesn’t pass, officials say the districts would be forced to deal with their problems on their own.

“Both districts have to regroup and figure out how we’re going to solve our problems,” Virginia Schools Teacher Troy Caddy said.

“A lot of those decisions, I think, won’t be very fun to make,” Carey said.

With funding coming from both the IRRB and the state, school officials say they’re offering the taxpayers a one-time proposal.

“It’s pretty much a one-time shot because, I mean, there’s other schools in line that have things that they want to do, and we got our shot here and we’re trying to make the most of it,” Carey said.

If the referendum passes, school officials say it would be a three-to-five year process to get the new schools and new system up and running.

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Gamiel Hall

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