Decision delayed on building Edison high school
A decision on whether to build a new Duluth Edison charter high school has been delayed. The Edison board voted Tuesday to extend the decision deadline to the end of April to allow the groups working on various aspects of the project -- its finan...
A decision on whether to build a new Duluth Edison charter high school has been delayed.
The Edison board voted Tuesday to extend the decision deadline to the end of April to allow the groups working on various aspects of the project - its financing and the school concept - more time to finalize information to present to board members. The board had previously said it would decide by the end of March.
Planning has taken longer than expected, said Crystal Palmer, president of the Edison board.
But, she said, “I don’t foresee any problems in pushing the deadline back,” and also noted that no other board members voiced concerns during their Tuesday night vote.
If approved, a 2016 school opening is still anticipated.
Work group member Paul Goossens said everyone involved is cognizant of the short window for starting a construction project this summer.
“We’re mindful that the North Star (Academy) groundbreaking was in early November,” he said of the recently built K-8 Duluth Edison school. “There were some additional costs involved.”
The finance group, which Goossens is part of, is working to ensure the annual lease payments made to the potential outside developer wouldn’t exceed the board’s parameters of $1.7 million, and would accommodate the vision for the school.
It’s expected to be built on Snowflake Nordic Ski Center land near North Star Academy, off Rice Lake Road. The project scope and design group, led by head of schools Bonnie Jorgenson, is working on the proposed vision and enrollment research.
The work is complicated, said Goossens, who also is president of Tischer Creek Building Co., which serves Edison’s interests and owns other Edison buildings.
What’s wanted for a high school and what is affordable must be matched up with the developer’s considerations, such as land usability, Goossens said.
There are substantial wetlands on the Snowflake property, and the developer, Caleb Roope, has said the ski center and its trails will be maintained to a large extent.
“How can we best design a building … without a blank check?” Goossens said, noting charter schools have less money to work with because they aren’t able to levy taxes on local residents like traditional school districts. The majority of money for new charter schools is determined by the state via an enrollment formula. The school is estimated to cost about $20 million.
Roope, of Idaho-based Pacific Cos., is buying 171 acres of land from Snowflake owner George Hovland. Roope has said he tentatively plans to build 200 multifamily housing units within walking distance of the high school. The company builds charter schools and housing, with one school recently built in the Twin Cities-area.
Roope didn’t return calls to the News Tribune this week.
An Edison high school would hold about 660 students, beginning with freshmen and a partial class of sophomores the first year. One plan under consideration would be to move the eighth grade to the high school building to allow for more students in the sixth and seventh grades at North Star Academy.
The board could vote on a high school developed by Roope’s company at its April 21 meeting, but Palmer said that depends on whether work groups are ready.