The Duluth School Board approved a lease agreement Tuesday night to rent a portion of the UnitedHealth Group building in Duluth.
The lease is for 20,975 square feet in the UnitedHealth Group building, located at 4316 Rice Lake Road. The space will be used as a temporary location for Historic Old Central High School staff, except for Academic Excellence Online and Area Learning staff.
The lease is for two years starting Oct. 1 with a one-year extension option.
The Duluth School Board approved selling Historic Old Central in October 2020, which has left the district administration and others without a home beginning this fall.
The annual cost to the district would be $702,667.50. If the district takes the third-year option, the cost will be subject to a 3% annual base rent increase.
The lease was added to the consent agenda Tuesday night through an amendment to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. Board members Alanna Oswald and Paul Sandholm voted against adding the lease to the agenda.
“I feel like this is coming out of nowhere and I wish we would have been able to know more about what other sites were considered at and had more robust discussions around this,” Sandholm said, adding he hopes this doesn’t happen again. “I think it’s a lot for the board to have something thrown at them a few hours before a meeting.”
Oswald said School Board members received the lease agreement at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
District CFO Cathy Erickson said the district also looked at the Maurices building, Wells Fargo building and the Technology Village. Erickson told the board Tuesday night that the lease is time-sensitive and came together at the last minute. She also said that other parties are interested in the space and if the board didn’t act on it Tuesday night, the district would lose the space and would have nowhere to go come the Oct. 25 move-out deadline at Historic Old Central.
The lease was approved unanimously by the School Board.
AEO and ALC
The Duluth School Board did not make a decision on the relocation of Academic Excellence Online (AEO) and Area Learning Center programs (ALC). The School Board held a lengthy discussion Monday night about the staff’s decision and the administration’s recommendation to approve moving forward negotiating a lease for Radio Central, located at 14 E. Central Entrance.
The news of The Hills Youth and Family Services closing in July has thrown a possible wrench into the decision. The Hills currently has a 15-year lease agreement with Duluth Public Schools for the use of Rockridge Academy in the Lakeside neighborhood.
School Board members Kelly Durick Eder, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and Oswald want more information on The Hills' intentions for Rockridge Academy and the possibility of it being a temporary location for Academic Excellence Online and Area Learning Center.
“I’m accountable to our community members and I need to be able to answer their questions,” Durick Eder said. “I need to get the information so I can give educated logical answers.”
Loeffler-Kemp also said she was hesitant to move forward Tuesday night with a decision on Radio Central because of the news that broke Monday regarding Rockridge Academy.
“I came out of (Monday’s) meeting ready to vote on this,” she said. “I need to see if Rockridge is a viable temporary solution for AEO and ALC.”
Oswald said she is concerned that the programs are settling for Radio Central when there could be a better option down the road if they could use Rockridge temporarily for a few years.
“I think we should pause, take a breath and talk about this Thursday,” Oswald said. “If we can, I think we should let ALC and AEO use it for a year or two while we form something bigger, brighter and better for our kids who need us the most.”
The School Board is tentatively scheduled to hold a special meeting to discuss the relocation of the Area Learning Center and Academic Excellence Online Thursday at 5 p.m.