Duluth district proposes closing Ordean, Piedmont schools early

Duluth school district administrators Monday recommended closing Ordean Middle School and Piedmont Elementary School at the end of this school year.

Duluth school district administrators Monday recommended closing Ordean Middle School and Piedmont Elementary School at the end of this school year.

If approved by the Duluth School Board, the schools would shut their doors a year earlier than expected under the long-range facilities plan.

The closings were two of a handful of cuts proposed to Duluth School Board members at a budget meeting Monday night as ways to climb out of the district's $4.5 million deficit. Other suggestions included increasing class size and shortening the elementary school day.

By closing Ordean early, the district anticipates saving $725,000 because it wouldn't have to pay salaries for principals, clerical staff, janitors and other staff members in the building, according to Duluth business director Bill Hanson. By closing Piedmont, the district expects to save $219,000.

If the board approves the closings -- it will vote on a final budget in early March -- students at Ordean Middle School would probably be split between Woodland and Morgan Park middle schools next year. Some sixth-graders might stay in their current elementary school for a year.


Piedmont students would transfer to Lincoln Park until construction wraps up on the new Lincoln Park/Piedmont school, which is slated to be built on the Piedmont site and open in 2011.

Board members seemed discouraged as administrators rattled off the list of cuts. At one point member Judy Seliga-Punyko put her head in her hands.

"I've got to say, this is really disheartening," she said. She added she would rather see the district switch to a four-day school week, an option on the table for 2010, than increase class size.

Board members Mary Cameron and Ann Wasson also said they were adamantly against increasing class size.

"We have way too many kids in our classes as it is right now," Wasson said. "I am absolutely opposed to that."

Board members had

little to say about the early school closings.

District administrators also warned them that they would be looking at moving to two high schools in 2010, again a year ahead of schedule.


Board members will vote on a final version of the budget in early March. A round-table discussion is scheduled for Monday at Old Historic Central High School to give community members a chance to weigh in on the budget discussion.

Other cuts being considered for next year:

-- $840,000 by shortening the elementary school day: The 15-minute reduction would come out of music, physical education, art and media classes.

-- $592,000 by increasing class size by a half a student: Last year the district increased class size by one student; this would be the second year in a row the district increased its student to teacher ratio.

-- $200,000 from co-curricular programs: Could include raising fees, reducing coverage for transportation costs or combining school programs.

-- $550,000 from staff development: Would essentially reduce staff development dollars to zero.

-- $290,000 from eighth-grade program at Secondary Technical Center: About 100 eighth-graders take technical classes at STC. This cut would eliminate that option.

-- $700,000 from other Secondary Technical Center programs: Out of a total budget of $2.9 million.


-- $300,000 from transportation: Would offer busing only to students who live at least two miles from school. Currently elementary students who live 0.7 miles and middle school students who live 1.5 miles from school can ride district buses.

-- $84,000 from teen-parent programs.

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