Denfeld, Central students join together at open house

Duluth Denfeld student Taia McColley looked forward to becoming a senior so she could finally purchase a Denfeld-logoed parking permit. She got one this year, but it bears the Central name instead.

Togetherness shirt
Denfeld and Central students are wearing shirts recognizing that the two schools are going to be combined for the 2010-11 school year. (Clint Austin /

Duluth Denfeld student Taia McColley looked forward to becoming a senior so she could finally purchase a Denfeld-logoed parking permit. She got one this year, but it bears the Central name instead.

"It ruined my scrapbook," she said. "I thought it would have both names."

McColley was one of several Denfeld students who toured her new school, Central, for the first time Tuesday night during an open house. Students and parents had the chance to get to know the school before beginning the school year. The schools are merging for one year at Central as part of the

Duluth school district's Red Plan. In 2011-12, work on Denfeld will be complete and both Denfeld and Central students will shift back to Denfeld for good, and Central will close.

While McColley shared some disappointments, she said the sadness and anger of living out her senior year away from the school she loved had mostly gone away.


"We just have to enjoy it," she said. "My teachers are here. It's Trojans for a year. But I hope we can do all of our stuff we used to do: Maroon and Gold Day, bonfires. It's going to be kind of different."

Parent volunteer Patty Langlee helped put together the open house. She said with 1,500 students all in the same school, it was important for Denfeld students to see the classrooms and hallways beforehand.

"Every school in Duluth has an open house," she said, noting Denfeld's generally was held several weeks after school started. "We wanted to do this before to ease the transition and the intimidation factor. It's like you're a freshman again; you don't have a clue where anything is."

Junior Haylee Johnson toured the school with her mom, Samantha DeRosier, and found each of her classes.

"I would rather stay at Denfeld but it's something that I have to do," she said, adding that she expects students from both schools to support each other and wear both school colors.

Johnson plays basketball and fastpitch softball, and DeRosier is concerned she'll lose her varsity status.

"She's been on varsity the last two years, and to combine like this, unless you're really, really good, she could be bumped down and play on JV this year to let more seniors be on varsity," she said. "I don't think it's very fair. You would hate for (any student) to lose a spot on the team and be pulled in a bad direction."

But, she said, she appreciated that Johnson would be in a more diverse environment that would allow her to explore new things, and she would return to Denfeld to graduate.


Denfeld senior Kristi Gunderson was concerned about losing her spot in the top 10 percent of the class because of the combination of students. She's also worried about making it to her West Duluth after-school job in time. She noted the departure situation, with one exit, was going to be a hassle at Central.

And at Denfeld, she said, "the teachers and students really bond together. We're like one because we're really close. So it's kind of sad that we're missing out on that."

Roger Peterson is father to a Denfeld junior coming to Central. He said timely transportation was a worry, but he had confidence in the school system to make the year at Central work.

"It's an opportunity to make new friends," he said. "There was initial apprehension, but the kids will be just fine."

And McColley and her friends have discussed a distinction, special to the Denfeld senior class of 2011: "We were the Denfeld kids who had to go to Central for a year," she said. "That's kind of cool."

Looking for classrooms
Haylee Johnson, a Denfeld junior, and her mother, Samantha DeRosier, look for classrooms on Tuesday evening during an open house for new students at Central High School. Denfeld and Central high school student bodies are combining for this school year. (Clint Austin /

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