Denfeld News

Nov. 12, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Denfeld community reacts to possible one-year closure
By Brandon Stahl

Prepared by rumors that have swirled for months, Denfeld students said Wednesday they weren’t surprised by news that their school might close during the next school year.

Reaction from students who were interviewed while eating lunch at Arby’s near Denfeld ranged from disgruntled to optimistic.

On the disgruntled end of the scale, students decried the loss of school traditions, the possibility of having sports combined with Central High School, overcrowded classrooms and long commutes to get to school.

“It’s not good,” said junior Kurt Berndt.

“I live way out in Norton Park,” said junior Stephen Swanstrom. “That’s going to be a long drive.”

Swanstrom also looked on the bright side: “I’ll still be graduating from Denfeld,” he said. “I don’t care as long as I graduate.”

“A school is a school,” added junior Jared Overby, who was sitting with Swanstrom. “I feel we can get along.”

Superintendent Keith Dixon told the News Tribune on Monday that construction at the school next year plus a need to cut expenses could prompt the district to temporarily close Denfeld in 2010-11 and split high school students between East and Central high schools.

Sophomore Nikki Logergren said she was excited about the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences.

Kalene Polling, seated with Logergren, disagreed: “I still love Denfeld and I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

“But when we come back,” countered Nikki Mutchler, “it’ll be so much nicer.”

Many teachers were told of the possibility last week, said Gene Grembowski, a biology teacher who has been at the school since 1981.

Grembowski said he understood the need to close the school and called it “probably the best move.”

“It’s the safest thing to do,” he said.

Dixon said Monday that keeping the kids at the school during construction would be costly, estimating it would be an extra $4 million to $8 million to schedule construction in a way that would minimize the effect on students.

If Denfeld does close, there are still many logistics to be worked out, such as what to do with the sports teams and how to consolidate classes.

There have been no decisions yet made as to what to do with the sports teams, said Denfeld Athletic Director Tom Pearson.

“Ultimately we’re trying to make the best decisions for the kids moving forward,” he said.

Grembowski said he’s been told that students still would be allowed to graduate at Denfeld and walk across the school’s auditorium stage.

“That made me feel a lot better about it,” he said.

Tim White, a math teacher who’s been at Denfeld for 13 years, said he also thinks closing the school for a year would be the best course of action, saying construction has been a distraction for the students.

“I think the construction would be faster and it would be cheaper. It only makes sense to me,” he said. “The sooner this is over and the quicker we can get on to the business of doing what we need to do, the better off it will be for everybody.”

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