Dec. 16, 2009
A year without Denfeld
By Sarah Horner
Despite pleas from community members, the Duluth
School Board voted Tuesday night to downsize from three high schools
to two next year, one year ahead of schedule under the long-range
Board members voted 6-1 to temporarily close Denfeld
High School next fall while the district finishes construction at
the school. It will reopen for the start of the 2011-2012 school
year, the same year Central High School is scheduled to close for
Only board member Gary Glass voted against the
closure, which district administrators say will save about $1.3
million and allow for construction to continue safely at Denfeld
without interfering with students’ education.
Glass said there are still a lot of unanswered
questions about how the transition will take place.
“I am not going to move ahead with this
plan because it is massively incomplete,” he said.
Saying the red plan strips schools out of the
center of the city and takes opportunities away from students, several
community members in attendance Tuesday asked board members to table
the decision on the Denfeld closure and all other decisions related
to the facilities plan until the new board sits in January. Many
also asked board members to consider a new facilities plan called
Red Plan Plus that was recently developed by a group of community
That proposal calls for three seventh- to 12th-grade
schools at Denfeld, Central and Ordean.
Tom Kasper, who will join the board as an At Large
representative in January, was one of about 20 people who spoke.
“I am going to ask you as an incoming School
Board member to refrain from voting on the resolutions. …
If I was in your seat I would do that for you,” Kasper said.
But board members including Nancy Nilsen and Laura
Condon said temporarily closing Denfeld was the best decision. Condon
pointed out that to allow kids to be at Denfeld during construction
could add an additional $8 million in construction costs.
“That money would come out of the refurbishing
of that high school and I don’t think that’s right,”
Condon said. “There are also educational advantages and health
and safety advantages to doing this.”
The consolidation will force lots of tough decisions
to take place this winter, such as how students and staff will be
divided between the two schools next year.
The district has organized a transition committee
made up of teachers, administrators, students and parents to help
navigate the details. All decisions are expected to be made by spring.
Also Tuesday, board members voted to accept the
next set of designs for the new western middle school and a series
of change orders related to other construction projects in the long-range