The latest plan from the administration will
quiet two parts of town and make a decision more palatable. The western
corridor will get substantially what it wants and the Eastern corridor will too
with the combination of Rockridge and Lester Park and with Ordean staying a
middle school. Many people in Duluth Heights are likely to be pleased too as
Lowell will still be an elementary school
The following email represents my thinking
about this latest plan. It was prompted by former School Board member Sally
Burns. I sent this to the seven board members who keep their email addresses
available to the public.
Fellow Board members,
I had to download the following email from former School Board member Sally Burns rather than just open it. I'm glad I took the trouble to do so. I'm sending it to you for your reconsideration because it makes an important point. The current proposal so strips Central High School of students and faculty that it could significantly impoverish their academic offerings.
I know that its hard for us to get away from the idea of 6-8 middle schools and to imagine a 7-9 configuration but its time we do so. Speaking from experience I know that ninth graders need a kid friendly environment too.
The symmetry our first plan envisions will eventually fail. Sooner or later the Central part of town will have to split its children into two high schools. Why not get it over with now and consolidate the high schools. When some future Board finely does it the people of that time will wonder why we didn't do it now when the time was ripe.
To School Board Members:
The beauty of your original long-range plan is that it addressed the entire city. The alternative in the paper today simply closes one half of the elementary schools in the central part of the city. The combination of Rockridge and Lester Park is a building closing but it rejoins one neighborhood which is hardly disruptive. That being said, I am not necessarily opposed to what you are doing.
My concern is Central High School. In order to maintain a quality program that meets the needs of all students, a school needs staff and students. Whether you impose a sixth period day or stick with the seven period day, you are dramatically reducing the staff in the building and that will impact next year's students. High school activities, high school "electives" which students are "required" to take in order to achieve their future goals and a positive school climate can not be maintained without sufficient staff. I have a hard time seeing my son spending his senior year of high school in a building that is smaller than his original junior high and barely larger than his elementary. This year his French teacher is in three different buildings each day. When my son had the flu, it took him several weeks to be able to make up a test because the teacher is simply not available. When he needs help, he goes early or stays after school to get it from his teachers because there is no time during the day. The smaller the enrollment, the more part time staff Central will have.
If you adopt this plan, in fairness to the Central students and their opportunities, you need to balance the high school enrollments now. That means no grandfathering of everyone who raises a fuss and no transfers out of the area. The truth is, high school students often move their junior and senior year for athletics and other activities or because their family is relocated. When they want to move, they don't feel their life will be over because of it. We have always lived within walking distance of East High School and have been assigned to Central which is more than two miles away. The argument that either Woodland, if that's the middle school you decide to use, or certain neighborhoods are closer to East than Central should not be any more a factor today than it was whenever my neighborhood was assigned to a school.
The reality is that the day is quickly coming when Duluth will not need three high schools. In the meantime, you have an obligation to provide equal educational opportunities for all Duluth students regardless of where they live and how vocal their parents are. If you are unwilling to balance the school enrollments, then you need to look at funding Central at a higher level than the other high schools to maintain a comparable program.