History will be made Thursday night, January 23, at the Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia hockey game when the new mascot, colors, and name will be revealed for the two respective school districts. It will be a notable event because historically, these communities have been titanic rivals with one another for years and years. One of the first things I heard when I moved onto the Range, was how much the schools hated one another and how some people refused to shop in either community, simply because they didn’t want to be seen in Eveleth, Gilbert, or Virginia, for fear their neighbors somehow think less of them for treading on enemy soil.

My how times have changed.

For the past several years, large groups of people in all the communities have mobilized and worked to create a better learning environment for their children and grandchildren. This was most notably demonstrated with the passage of a $178.5 million bond by the voters in all three communities--Gilbert, Eveleth, and Virginia--to construct two new elementary schools and one high school. On a per pupil basis, it was one of the largest--if not the largest--successful school bond votes in the history of the State of Minnesota. On a per pupil basis, it exceeds what was recently passed in White Bear Lake, which has been touted as the largest school bond passage in the State of Minnesota.

More importantly, the public vote signaled a seismic shift in attitudes toward education on the East end of the Range. It signaled a willingness to move education for the students into the 21st Century, especially with the movement on the high school level into Career Academies.

Our kids attend church together. They date one another. They snowmobile together. They are friends who fish together. They eat pancakes together at the Village Inn. I think they are going to do just fine with one another as the two school districts merge together.

Colors, names, and mascots are symbols of culture and create a sense of belonging together. As such, they change as time moves forward. We honor the past, live in the present, and look forward to the future.

This has been a public process. The entire vote for the new colors, name, and mascot has been left up to you, the public. Consequently, what you see revealed at the hockey game (in Eveleth) will be entirely what the majority of the communities have said they want.

Come to the hockey game early for the best seat —or even to make sure you have a seat. If you can’t attend the game, we will release the new colors, name, and mascot on social media immediately after the game is finished. Because the new colors, name, and mascot are for the entire school--and not just for hockey--representatives of other student activities will also be present. Sit back and enjoy the show. I think you’re going to like it. It’s certainly something you’re going to remember for years to come.

Dr. Noel Schmidt is the superintendent of Virginia Public Schools.

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