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Our view: Reinstating class a good first step

Parents were upset. And vocal. And organizing. Students were ticked, one to the point of public protest: She sang a “Frozen” song entirely in Spanish at a talent show to object to an upper-level Spanish class being cut at her Denfeld High School, a class that earns high school students free college credits and gives them a head start on their futures.

It worked. Superintendent Bill Gronseth opened Tuesday’s School Board meeting by announcing that Spanish 5 would be offered next year at Denfeld after all. He was


The meeting room then quieted — and so has the controversy. But we can’t remain quiet. The fight for a Spanish class was part of a far-bigger, far-more-important conversation this community clearly needs to keep having about equity — or the lack of it — between western Duluth’s Denfeld High School and Duluth East High School.

East has more students (1,550 compared to Denfeld’s 989), more district money because money is allocated on a per-student basis, and more opportunities because there are more kids to participate in more things. In addition, more than 57 percent of students at Denfeld come from families poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches while the percentage at East is just 21.7 percent.

Is it any wonder some see a haves-vs.-have-nots situation in our schools similar to Duluth’s decades-old, aren’t-we-past-this-yet east-west


The Duluth school district’s Red Plan, with its controversial closing of Central High School, was supposed to result in equal offerings and opportunities at both remaining schools, east and west. There was supposed to be balance in enrollment and demographics and opportunities.

But that’s not happening, and our district and community owes it to students — all our students — to change that, even if it means adjusting the boundaries for Denfeld’s and East’s student bodies. Whether intended or not, there’s an unfair imbalance now with some students penalized and others rewarded — based solely on where their families happen to live.

“My address should not determine the quality of my education,” Denfeld junior Lucy Billings said at the School Board meeting, putting it so well.

Reinstating Spanish 5 at Denfeld was a sensible, logical and appropriate first step in addressing the equity problems plaguing Duluth’s public high schools. But there are many more steps to pursue and to take — and none of them can be allowed to be forgotten just because there’s no controversy screaming for action.