The Mesabi East School District #2711 is a large school district encompassing 405.3 square miles in Northeastern Minnesota. It is a twice consolidated district, first with the consolidation of Aurora, Hoyt Lakes and the surrounding area. Subsequently, Aurora-Hoyt Lakes consolidated with Biwabik creating Mesabi East in 1991-1992.
The school district's population is approximately 8,000 residents concentrated in the three
communities of Aurora, Biwabik and Hoyt Lakes. The district is bounded by the following
school districts: St. Louis County, Lake Superior, Duluth, Virginia, and Eveleth-Gilbert.
The Mesabi East School District is a one site campus serving students in grades Early Childhood through the 12th grade. The Aurora facility, built in the late 1920's, had been a high school building and needed to be restructured for an EC-12 facility. This required significant changes in the structure of the network and allocations of rooms and resources. In 2005 it became apparent that significant upgrades to the facility would need to be made to ensure safety of staff and students, and to provide the most technologically advanced education within the fiscal means of the district. (MPR story from 2006, Mesabi Schools Ask for a New Building.)
Many options were considered. Ultimately, it was determined that the current facility, even with substantial remodeling, would be inadequate for the long-term. For that reason a 15.2 million dollar building referendum was placed before the voters on April 4, 2006 and approved. This referendum also received an additional amount of funding from Taconite Bonding in the amount of 3.6 million dollars.
The now completed building provides new classroom space for all grades EC-12. With significant updating preexisting buildings are now used for administration, cafeteria, gymnasiums, swimming pool, auditorium, and fitness center.
Mesabi East had experienced a continual decline in student enrollment for several years.
The most significant potential impact on enrollment occurred in 2001 with the closing of the
LTV mining company in Hoyt Lakes. The loss of 1400 jobs created a significant impact on both the school and the community. The enrollment loss was less than what could have been
predicted, but has dropped from about 1100 to our current enrollment of 900 students.
There is guarded optimism about the local economy as mining/industrial firms have been evaluating the potential use of the former LTV site, with one of the firms, Mesabi Nugget, in the construction phase of a new processing facility. Another, Polymet, is in the final stages of an environmental review. With the potential for future employment, and a new school facility, the hope is that the our current small gains in enrollment will accelerate in the very near future.