05.14.19 school consolidtion vote-2.jpg

A steady stream of voters in Virginia, Eveleth and Gilbert cast their ballots for a proposed school consolidation between Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert. Tuesday. Voters in both districts need to approve the project for it to move forward.

Voters in the Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia school districts passed a $181 million referendum for an educational collaborative project that includes a $114 million combined 7-12 high school career academy serving both districts and a new elementary school.

While the numbers remain unofficial Tuesday, Virginia approved the measure by about 68% with 1,989 votes for and 905 against.  Eveleth-Gilbert approved the referendum with 58% of the vote, 1,766 for and 1,276 against.

“The kids are the big winners tonight,” said Virginia Superintendent Dr. Noel Schmidt.

Taxpayers in the districts will cover about 20% of the total project cost, with the state of Minnesota paying 40%. The Department Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation also approved $100 million over 20 years as part of the agency's school collaboration fund to fill the remaining 40%.

Passing the referendum and career academy marks what supporters are calling historic day for the Iron Range education.

Getting to this point encompassed two years of discussions, 89 community meetings, 12 joint school board meetings.

"I would just like to thank all of our communities for supporting this project. It is going to be a real game changer for our area and our students education," said E-G Superintendent Jeff Carey. " It has been really great seeing these communities work together over the last two years on a common goal and to be able to make it come to fruition is going to be great for our area."

Votes will be finalized on Wednesday and Virginia has a special school board meeting scheduled on May 20 to canvass the ballots.

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