Virginia High Shcool

Roosevelt School students play outside of the Virginia High School/Roosevelt Elementary School Thursday morning.

Substitutes have been hired and lined up in the Virginia School District to cover regular teachers’ classes when they work on committees dealing with curriculum for a proposed co-located grades 7-12 high school that would be built in Mountain Iron.

The teachers have refused to serve on those committees outside of regular school hours, according to an email to the Mesabi Daily News from opponents of the project, which was confirmed by Virginia Superintendent Deron Stender.

“Oh my gosh, is this the level some people have stooped to,” the Virginia superintendent said when he was contacted and asked to comment on the email regarding hiring of substitutes, and lack of cooperation on co-location curriculum input from teachers.

Stender said at first he didn’t want to comment on it, but then did say that was an accurate assessment of the situation.

The email thread also referred to 28 teachers being hired to cover the in-class time of the regular instructors, but it did not state whether that was for the Virginia district solely or other districts, too. Stender said he had no idea how many substitutes were hired.

The email also said teachers were being required to work on the curriculum for a proposed new school that would result in the closing of the school where they now work.

Stender said that was a miscommunication. He said that High School Principal Laverne Hackly, who is a member of the Joint Powers Curriculum Committee, did say that to teachers, but it has since been clarified as being optional.

“It was all just a misunderstanding ... a miscommunication,” he said.

Some opponents of the co-location who met for a group interview last Thursday at the Mesabi Daily News also said they have talked with Virginia teachers who have said they have been told not to talk in public about the relocation proposal or give their views on it.

“They have been muzzled,” said Greg Gilness of Virginia.

“That’s absolutely not true, Stender said.

“This is absolutely horrible. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jennifer Bonner of Virginia.

“Being that our contract is unsettled, the state rep for (Education Minnesota) suggested that we do not make a public stand against co-location until they settle with us,” a teacher said in the email thread.

The opponents spoke in one voice about the proposal. “Just where is all this coming from,” they said.

If the plan makes it through a political maze of funding still in play at the Legislature and then is approved by voters in at least two of the three school districts in separate referendums, the $180 million total project would result in Virginia and Eveleth shuttering their high schools.

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