St. Louis, Itasca county school districts consider academic collaboration

Hibbing, Chisholm, Nashwauk-Keewatin and Floodwood will solicit a request for proposal for a consultant to help determine if an academic collaboration would be viable.

Range schools.jpg
News Tribune graphic

Four area school districts announced Tuesday their formal intention to collaborate in an effort to improve opportunities for students.

Hibbing, Chisholm, Nashwauk-Keewatin and Floodwood school districts will solicit a request for proposal for a consultant to help determine if an academic collaboration would be viable.

All of the districts sent out an informal survey to their communities to gauge interest in a collaboration. Superintendents from all four districts held a press conference over Zoom videoconferencing Tuesday to announce the results. The four communities received a total of 1,281 responses with 80.5% indicating support of collaboration.

The survey asked four questions:

  • Which district do they live in?
  • Do they have students in that district?
  • Would they be interested in a collaboration?
  • Which areas would they like to see considered for collaboration?

Support for collaboration ranged from 69% in Chisholm to 90% in Floodwood.

Range schools collaboration survey.jpg


The districts are also partnering with Range Association of Municipalities & Schools to help with the request and anticipate receiving a $15,000 matching grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. All four districts will provide the $15,000 in matching funds.

“This is all about improving opportunities for our students, finding ways to operate more efficiently and really to gather this notion that we’re stronger together as a central Range group,” Hibbing Superintendent Rick Aldrich said. “We’re strong independently, but if there’s a way that we can pool resources or support staff to somehow enhance curriculum for all our students, central Range-wide, that’s really what’s driving this conversation.”

Chisholm Superintendent Janey Blanchard said the endgame was not consolidation; this is a collaborative effort only. It would be beneficial to have the ability for students to take classes offered at another district, she said.

“We have students that are looking to stay within our walls and receive college credit through the College in the Schools program, but currently Hibbing doesn’t have a certified instructor in all of the areas that kids would like to get College in the Schools credit,” Aldrich said. “Chisholm, Nashwauk and Floodwood are in the same boat, but if we are able to pull our resources together and share staff so a kid from Hibbing could join a College in the Schools class in Chisholm or Nashwauk or Floodwood that would just create additional opportunities for our kids.”

College in the Schools allows students to receive college credit through a local college or university while taking the class in their high school building through a certified teacher.

Nashwauk-Keewatin Administrator on Special Assignment Craig Menozzi and Aldrich said whether those class collaborations would happen in person or via telepresence is unknown this early in the planning process, but they could see it being a combination.

District superintendents have been meeting weekly to discuss the collaboration since October. Board chairs from Chisholm, Hibbing and Nashwauk-Keewatin were brought in for a discussion in January with hopes of having a joint board meeting among all boards, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that.

Floodwood Superintendent Rae Villebrun said her district just recently joined the conversation in the past month and is conducting a formal survey regarding collaboration through School Perceptions, an independent research firm out of Wisconsin that specializes in conducting surveys for public and private schools. Villebrun said they expect the results later this month.


Greenway School Board Chair Michael Williams said they were contacted in July 2019 about a possible consolidation with Nashwauk-Keewatin, which they passed on, but were not contacted about this collaboration.

St. Louis County School District Superintendent Reggie Engebritson was also contacted about Cherry Schools collaborating. According to Aldrich, they were just asked to be kept in the loop, but aren't prepared to commit to the collaboration.

This story was corrected at 9:08 a.m. June 5 to say the Greenway district wasn't contacted about the collaboration. The story was originally posted at 7:19 p.m. June 2. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
What To Read Next
Get Local