Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Board tackles NER hockey

Marcus White
Posted 11/15/18

VIRGINIA— A proposal to combine the Northeast Range hockey program with Virginia drew impassioned debate by members of the St. Louis County School Board last Thursday evening. An unnamed parent had …

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Board tackles NER hockey

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VIRGINIA— A proposal to combine the Northeast Range hockey program with Virginia drew impassioned debate by members of the St. Louis County School Board last Thursday evening. An unnamed parent had requested in writing that the district end its cooperative hockey agreement between Northeast Range and Ely in favor of a combination with Virginia.

The suggestion sharply divided members of the school board.

“It’s not a one child problem, it’s about a group of kids who have stopped playing because they can’t play,” said South Ridge representative Christine Taylor in support of the change. “Ely can be inconsistent. If Virginia has the levels every year, why not go with that?”

But Chris Koivisto, who represents Northeast Range, said Virginia’s program was too large to accommodate more players. “There is no question, they can play in Ely,” he said. “There are too many people in Virginia. They may not even make the team.”

Taylor argued that Ely did not always have a junior varsity team or a bantam team, which meant young kids may end up playing with seniors in high school. Dan Manick echoed the point, saying he was concerned that kids from Northeast Range who were not ready for varsity play would be forced to play against teams that were too far above their skill level, potentially creating dangerous playing conditions. He said this has happened in the past.

“Let them (players) develop confidence and the skill set,” he said. “You throw these kids into the fire in the high school program. I don’t want to hurt the Ely program, but those are our kids.”

Both Superintendent Reggie Engebritson and Koivisto reminded the board that the agreement with Ely had been in place for two decades.

Manick said, however, that Ely was not giving parents and players from Northeast Range a large enough say in the program.

Koivisto said the same would be true of any cooperative agreement not housed within the district

While the board was divided, they eventually agreed that ending the program would likely spell the end of hockey at Northeast Range in the future.

Engebritson said it was too late in the year to make any decision for the 2018-2019 season, though more conversation will likely be held at future board meetings. She added the Ely School District has already indicated they will honor any decision made by St. Louis County Schools.

In other business, the board:

Agreed to a vote at its Nov. 14 meeting to create a cooperative agreement between Northeast Range and Mesabi East for Nordic skiing. Mesabi East has already approved the agreement, and it will go into effect immediately upon approval by ISD 2142.

Heard from Engebritson that newly elected Bois Forte Tribal Council member Shane Drift will address the board at the Nov. 27 meeting on a proposal to add a seat for Nett Lake on the ISD 2142 board. While the board offered no comment on the proposal, Engebritson said she doubted the proposal was legal since Nett Lake already had its own school district and state law prohibits out-of-district residents from serving on school boards.

Heard that the district will be sending out surveys to gather ideas how to address a bus driver shortage. Engebritson noted the problem was not unique to the area, but was a nation-wide problem.

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