Majority of School Board members favor temporary Denfeld closureA vote is expected to take place on the option sometime in December. If approved, Denfeld would close next year and reopen for the 2011-2012 school year when construction is complete and Central High School closes permanently.
By: Sarah Horner, Duluth News Tribune
All signs point to the temporary closure of Denfeld High School next year.
The majority of Duluth School Board members indicated today they would likely support closing the school for a year to accommodate construction at Denfeld . A vote is expected to take place on the option sometime in December. If approved, Denfeld would close next year and reopen for the 2011-2012 school year when construction is complete and Central High School closes permanently.
“We’ve looked at every other option that we possibly could because this is not the ideal thing we would have liked to see happen, but this is the one that makes the most sense,” said board member Nancy Nilsen.
Board members Mary Cameron, Ann Wasson, Laura Condon, Judy Seliga-Punyko and Tim Grover also said they support closing the school. Member Gary Glass said he did not support the move.
The closure would save the district about $1.3 million and help it close a projected deficit of more than $4 million next school year. More importantly, the district said the temporary closure would allow construction to occur uninterrupted at Denfeld without putting students in harm’s way.
“I can do construction quicker and cheaper and I think it keeps kids safer and healthier with this option,” Superintendent Keith Dixon said. He added that trying to negotiate construction around students at Denfeld could add $2 million to $8 million to the building’s cost.
Board members at a meeting today said that although the closure might force some undesirable changes for students and staff, the threat to safety necessitated the closure.
“Once we start ripping in to the old walls at Denfeld, who knows what we are going to find,” said board member Laura Condon. “We don’t want kids around for that.”
Member Judy Seliga-Punyko agreed, saying the construction could also interrupt students’ education.
“Having the kids around with all that dust and noise would be a huge mess,” she said.
Member Ann Wasson said the closure might actually end up being a positive for students.
“We are bringing these students’ communities together, and I think that will be a good thing,” Wasson said. “That way these kids can go back to the new school together.”
Nilsen added that Denfeld will not go away next year.
“We may not be using the building for classroom activities, but I still think that Denfeld as a school will remain open,” she said. She added that separate graduation ceremonies, scholarship programs and other school specific components will still be in place.
Board members will likely be presented with a resolution on the closure at a meeting in December. Dixon said the district wants to reach a decision on the issue as soon as possible to allow enough time to work through the details of the transition.