Duluth Public Schools' Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online programs are looking for a new place to call home. Staff members from both toured two options Wednesday.
The two locations that are up for consideration are the 430 suite at the Duluth Technology Village on Superior Street — previously occupied by Essentia Health — and the Radio Central building at 14 E. Central Entrance in Duluth.
Both locations would require extensive renovation for the space to work for the Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online. Each space is approximately 12,500 square feet in size and offers its own amenities.
For the Technology Village location, renovation would be much less work and could be completed by the fall, Duluth Assistant Superintendent Anthony Bonds said. The Radio Central building wouldn’t be ready until spring 2022 at the earliest, which presents challenges regarding next school year, he said.
Bonds said both locations are meant to be temporary as the district looks for a more permanent space, but the cost of the alterations would determine how long the programs would be in the space.
“For example, Radio Central would require significant building out, which would mean a longer period of time that the programs would have to stay there to see a return on an investment, which could mean seven to 10 years or whatever that budget number is,” Bonds said. “As for Technology Village, at this point in time, the early numbers indicate that we could be there for two to three years in terms of return on investment.”
The lease payment is nearly identical between the two locations and would be paid for by the district's leasing levy authority.
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Both locations are on bus lines, which was a major request by the staff, and both would include parking for students and staff. If the district were to choose the Radio Central location, the programs would have the entire building to themselves, whereas if they were to be located at Technology Village they would be sharing the building with multiple tenants, though they would have their own space.
Bonds said the district and staff looked at around 20 different locations in the area. The Technology Village and Radio Central became the final two possible locations due to their availability, size and location related to the Duluth Transit Authority bus lines.
Bonds said he and the leadership team will meet with staff members Thursday to discuss the pros and cons of each location. While he doesn’t have an exact timeline for when a decision will be made, Bonds said he hopes to have a recommendation by the end of the month.
The Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online programs are both located in Historic Old Central High School in downtown Duluth. The building, currently under contract with developer Saturday Properties, is required to be vacated in October.