Staff from two programs vacating Historic Old Central High School after its sale have chosen a location they want to move into next year, but the Duluth School Board expressed some concerns Monday night during a committee of the whole meeting.
Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online staff toured Radio Central, located at 14 E. Central Entrance, and Technology Village, located in downtown Duluth, two weeks ago. The staff decided they would like to lease Radio Central and believe collectively that Technology Village is a nonstarter for them.
“We just can’t see ourselves functioning effectively in Tech Village,” said Chris Vold, Area Learning Center dean of students and Academic Excellence Online coordinator. “It’s just a no-go for us.”
Concerns regarding Radio Central include the cost of the renovations, the length of the lease and issues with ownership. District project manager Nathan Norton said the current owner is having health issues and is looking to sell the building to a new developer, Advanced Acquisitions. With the help of real estate broker Greg Follmer, the district secured a letter of intent from the current owner to make sure the prices quoted would stay the same. Norton said, however, a letter of intent isn’t legally binding.
Renovations at Radio Central are estimated to cost around $1.3 million, which would be passed on to taxpayers through the district’s lease levy authority, and the building wouldn’t be ready until spring of 2022.
Monthly rent for Radio Central is $44,017.46 for a seven-year lease, $40,110.58 for a 10-year lease and $36,724.63 for a 15-year lease.
Norton said there is no flexibility on the lengths on the lease. The leasing cost would also be covered by taxpayers through the district’s lease levy authority, which does not need voter approval.
The Tech Village would cost $30,988.05 a month for a three-year lease. Renovations would cost an estimated $500,000, and the landlords would contribute $250,000 to the renovations. The work could be completed this fall.
Though it would cost less for the two programs to move to Tech Village, staff members, School Board members and administrators expressed concerns Monday night about the students using a shared bathroom. Staff members also share concerns over the fact that there is a security guard in the lobby of the building.
“Some of these things can be triggers for our students,” said Joe Schingen, an English teacher at Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online. “We knew almost immediately that Tech Village wouldn’t work.”
They would have the entire building to themselves at Radio Central, staff said, adding that it’s on a bus line and it is centrally located in the city. Tony Olson, a social studies teacher at Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online, said the proximity to Lake Superior College is also a huge advantage as they are hoping to create a program that would allow their students to earn dual high school and college credits.
The School Board is expected to approve moving forward with Radio Central during their regular meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Board member Alanna Oswald said she would like to know before voting whether private bathrooms could be added to the Tech Village space and what spaces within the building and the parking garage the district would be responsible for.