Denfeld News

Jan. 9, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

Duluth red plan school construction begins in the spring
By Sarah Horner

The countdown to construction on Duluth public schools’ long-range facilities plan has officially begun.

The district released a design and construction schedule Tuesday that includes everything from school closure dates to building dates to transition plans for students during renovations.

Construction will kick off on Lakewood and Stowe elementary schools late this spring, with the bulk of projects scheduled to begin between 2009 and 2011.

All new schools will be ready to open by either fall 2011 or fall 2012, said Dave Karhonen, solutions project executive for Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls is the consulting firm leading the district through the long-range project known as the red plan.

Several schools will be closed, including Nettleton and Piedmont elementary schools in summer 2010, and Lincoln Park, Morgan Park, Woodland, Rockridge and Lester Park in summer 2011. Central High School, scheduled to close under the plan, still is being considered as a site for the western middle school.

“We will be working on projects that will reach a level of activity that has not happened in the school district in a long time,” Lieder said. “People will finally know when they will feel the impact of the long-range plan.”

Criteria created by district staff and community members guided the timeline’s development, Karhonen said. To ensure the least effect on students’ education, for example, much of the construction will take place during the summer; students and staff at most schools will have to move only once during the transition from old to new buildings.

In addition, the construction schedule was staggered to keep work local.

“You start by digging a foundation for most projects, and there is a specific area of trade that does that,” Lieder said. “If we started all of the projects at the same time, we wouldn’t have enough people in our area to get the work done.”

Eight to 10 schedules were created before the development team selected the one presented Tuesday. The Duluth School Board reviewed details Tuesday night.

“There can be no perfect plan for this sort of thing,” Lieder said. “In order to do this kind of construction and effect this kind of change, there has to be some impact on students, neighbors and families. I believe the ultimate result is going to be worth whatever impact there is.”

Community members will be invited to participate in pieces of the design phase as specific projects emerge, said Katie Kaufman, public relations director for the district.

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