Open campuses in Duluth likely for another school yearDuluth’s high school campuses probably will remain open over lunch hour for another school year while the district works on a plan to either close them for all students or for most of them, such as freshmen through juniors.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth’s high school campuses probably will remain open over lunch hour for another school year while the district works on a plan to either close them for all students or for most of them, such as freshmen through juniors.
The Duluth School Board heard from the Duluth Police Department’s Deputy Chief Mike Tusken on rationale for complete closure and from East High School’s administrative team on what a modified closure would look like at its Tuesday education committee meeting. The board will vote on a plan next week, and a majority of members indicated support for a modified closure along with taking the recommended time to roll it out.
Staff at East spent time talking to several school districts in Minnesota that had closed or partially closed campuses in recent years.
“It took them all 12-18 months to get set up,” said Cheryl Lien, assistant principal at East. “That’s the key thing we’re hearing over and over again.”
Reasons for that at various schools included time for students and families to adjust to the idea and learn about new policies, to get input from students and from businesses about possible subcontracting and to add new lunchroom equipment, staff and even gardens. None of the schools, including in Brainerd and Bemidji, had any major issues once the changes were made.
Tusken said keeping campuses open with increased supervision and cameras outside, as previously suggested, wasn’t likely to make a difference.
“It’s not going to change behavior,” he said.
He encouraged the board to approve the estimated $240,000 it would take to gear up for a closed campus. He said it would alleviate the collection of issues that come from keeping them open: truancy, safety concerns, criminal activity, drug and alcohol use, rushed driving to fast food restaurants, loitering, littering, bullying and fighting.
“I recognize that 93 percent of the kids at your schools do the right thing without question,” he said, but the other 7 percent is responsible for the complaints and calls the department handles stemming from student behavior.
Board member Ann Wasson said she’d like to see a modified closure a year from this fall.
“It’s going to cost money and cause sadness to some kids,” she said.
Member Judy Seliga Punyko said one of the reasons for the new, larger high schools was to make enough room to close campuses.
“It helps with tardiness and truancy and it’s all the reasons we want kids to succeed,” she said.
But while the space is available in the new schools, member Mike Miernicki said it would be difficult to pay for the equipment and staffing that’s needed when the district has to reduce its budget by $3.5 million.
“If we can come up with a solution that’s economical, we’ll do it,” he said. “We want safety. We want them in the building and eating healthy food.”