On May 14, 2019 history was made by the voters in the Virginia and Eveleth/Gilbert school districts. That is the day they approved by a healthy margin a $181 million dollar referendum that would result in the construction of a new joint high school learning academy, a new Pre K-6 elementary in Eveleth and a new Grades 3 -6 elementary in Virginia. The joint efforts of these two school districts left many people from my generation (60+) with their jaws dropped in amazement. These two schools have a rivaled history especially back in the 70’s with an intense hockey rivalry know across the state. I for one was humbled by the historical vote and also proud that as the director of RAMS, I was able to witness the process from start to finish.
Now comes what should be the final step on this journey, the formal vote by the two school district residents on formal consolidation of the districts. This is the logical progression of nearly three years of conversations, community meetings, countless field trips, trying and challenging joint board meetings and ultimately the development of a planned new district with an educational foundation that will enhance and expand opportunities for students that will be the envy of many.
With declining populations throughout the Iron Range, student enrollments that are about half of what they were in the late 60’s, and 70’s, districts are pressed to continue to provide the diversity of classes they could once offer. By consolidating these two districts the larger student population and combined staff of the districts affords so many more opportunities for specialties, advance placement classes, arts, trades and technical programming all in a new learning environment that encompasses mentorships with local businesses and guidance from some of the biggest corporations in the region.
The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools has been a long and proud advocate for our educational institutions. All 16 public school districts in the Taconite Assistance Area are members of RAMS. The RAMS executive board includes four school board directors as well as two school superintendents. The board of directors passed a resolution of support for this project prior to the referendum vote and recognizes how this new consolidated district will spur further dialog among other Iron Range districts. Those discussions hopefully will ultimately benefit the students. After all, that is what is important, giving our students the best educational experience they can have while preparing them for life afterwards as a well- rounded person and a contributor to our society.
Rock Ridge Wolverines …History in the making…VOTE YES ON MAY 12!!
Steve Giorgi is the Executive Director of RAMS .