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School consolidation wins narrow approval

Voters of rural St. Louis County narrowly passed a $78 million school bond referendum Tuesday by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, according to a preliminary, unofficial count. In all 53 percent of registered voters in the district weighed in on...

Voters of rural St. Louis County narrowly passed a $78 million school bond referendum Tuesday by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, according to a preliminary, unofficial count. In all 53 percent of registered voters in the district weighed in on the election.

"I'm extremely relieved," school board chairman Bob Larson said. "I think that now, as a board, we will work together to address the needs of those who voted no, as well as those who voted for the referendum."

Three prior referendums for Independent School District 2142 failed, but those were for levies that would have supported the district's existing school operations. The latest referendum will authorize an investment of about $78 million in facilities, including schools in Cherry, Babbitt-Embarrass and an elementary school in Tower-Soudan.

Of the district's seven existing facilities, four will close, including the AlBrook, Cotton, Cook and Orr schools.

If the referendum had failed, school district officials said the district would likely dissolve completely, and students would need to be sent to neighboring districts.

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Carlye Olson of Culver said she's pleased her

5-year-old son will be able to stay closer to home.

"I think it's important to have schools in our communities, versus sending everyone to Cloquet or Proctor or wherever," she said.

Olson said consolidation will enable the district to offer more classes.

"When we can't offer what students need or want, they go somewhere else," she said.

But school board member Andy Larson, representing the Tower-Soudan area, said the vote robs many residents of a nearby school.

"We get nothing," Larson said "We lose our school and we get to pay for new schools somewhere else for the next 20 years."

The referendum will raise the annual property tax payment on a $100,000 home by about $164.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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