East Range Academy of Technology and Science (ERATS) announced Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert schools to save its bus garage from demolition.
The Joint Powers Board for Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia voted 5-1 on April 17 to either sell the garage by June 1 or demolish it by July 1. The garage sits on the site of the new combined high school, named Rock Ridge High School, which is set to begin construction July 1.
It is currently used by ERATS to store two buses as well as vans, a lawnmower and other tools. ERATS uses 50% of the building and Spectrum Health Services uses the other half.
“In an effort to protect the bus garage from being unlawfully demolished, (Tuesday) ERATS filed a lawsuit requesting that the court, among other things, issue an injunctive order prohibiting the sale or demolition of ERATS’s bus garage,” ERATS attorneys Erik J. Honkanen and Jeffrey Storms said in a news release. “ERATS’s intent is only to protect what it has a legal right to possess pursuant to its lease with (Virginia Public Schools).”
In August, the Virginia district purchased a property at 2000 Siegel Boulevard in Eveleth from Spectrum Health for $2.1 million. Spectrum Health and ERATS, a charter school of about 170 students, both occupy the building on the property.
According to the purchase agreement for the property, Spectrum Health will continue to occupy the building and collect the rent from ERATS until June 1, when the possession of the property and the lease would be transferred to the Virginia school district.
The ERATS lease runs through June 30, 2023, with a one-time, five-year renewal option, which would extend the lease through June 30, 2028. It rents the space for nearly $200,000 annually. The use of the garage is also included in the lease agreement.
In an attempt to gain full control of the property the Virginia School Board voted Feb. 10 to move forward with eminent domain proceedings after negotiations broke down with ERATS.
Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia school districts have been working to consolidate and create a new career academy high school. Voters from both districts approved a combined nearly $180 million referendum in May 2019 that allowed the districts to move forward with building two new elementary schools and a new high school.
Voters from both districts will vote May 12 on whether to consolidate the two districts. Each district needs a majority of its voters to say yes for the consolidation to move forward. If the consolidation vote fails, the elementary schools and high school will still be constructed, but will operate as separate districts.
A request for comment by the News Tribune from Virginia Superintendent Noel Schmidt and Eveleth-Gilbert Superintendent Jeff Carey was referred to their attorney Trevor Helmers. No comment or statement has been returned.