Denfeld News

May 16, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Survey: Duluthians like two high school plan
By Sarah Horner

Of the three plans vying to become the Duluth school district’s road map for consolidation — the red, white and blue plans — red has emerged as the front-runner.

Results of a professional public-opinion survey released Tuesday found 56 percent of respondents support the red plan, which calls for closing Central High School and operating a two-high school system on the east and west ends of the district. Ordean Middle School would be reconfigured into the eastern high school and Denfeld would remain as the western high school.

Twelve percent of respondents favor the blue plan, which would keep Central open as the only high school in the district, while reconfiguring East and Denfeld into middle schools. Ten percent support the white plan, which would turn Denfeld into a middle school and build a new high school out west.

The poll, conducted by Decision Resources Ltd., a national survey research firm based in Minneapolis, randomly surveyed 300 households across the district by phone between April 24 and May 4.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent. Percentages do not add up to 100 because of a rounding error.

“The results are clear,” said Dr. Bill Morris, president of Decision Resources. “You have a solid working majority in favor of keeping Denfeld as a high school in this district.”

The news came as no surprise to Superintendent Keith Dixon.

“This is generally in line with what I’ve been hearing through personal feedback as well,” he said. He added the survey is not a direct indicator of the final plan.

“We are not announcing a solution today,” Dixon said. “This is not the plan yet, it’s just the results of the community survey.”

The survey, which consisted of 61 questions, also asked respondents about their attitudes toward the impact the three plans would have on property taxes. Depending on the plan, property taxes would go up between $8 and $11 a month on a $125,000 home, the median value in Duluth.

“What we found was very impressive; 69 percent favored the tax increase,” Morris said.

Twenty-four percent opposed the increase.

The last major finding dealt with voting. The Duluth school district, which is not legally required to put the final solution before the public for a vote, wanted to gauge how the community would respond if it were to exercise that authority.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said they didn’t care one way or another about the opportunity to vote on a final proposal; 19 percent said they would be less likely to support the solution without a vote, and 6 percent said they would be more likely to support a plan without a vote.

“This is the clearest indication we had,” Morris said. “We kept hearing people say they just want to see the project done. We have talked about it and talked about it and talked about; now let’s just do it.”

The survey results, coupled with feedback that district administrators have heard through e-mails, phone calls and personal conversations, will be used as the basis for deciding on a final solution for the district.

The recommendation will be released Friday, followed by a first reading of the proposal by Duluth School Board members May 24.

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