The Duluth School Board held its last regular meeting in Historic Old Central High School Tuesday night as the district begins to vacate the building.
The Duluth School Board has been meeting in Historic Old Central since the 1970s. Before the meeting started Tuesday night, the board members, sitting at socially distanced tables, took a photo together to mark the occasion.
The board room, formally the auditorium, has seen a lot of memorable meetings, including calls to fire former Superintendent Bill Gronseth, protests of the closing of school buildings during the long-range facilities plan commonly known as the “Red Plan,” shows of support for teachers getting their contracts ratified, and the hiring of current Superintendent John Magas.
Board Chair Jill Lofald said the emotion of leaving Historic Old Central hasn't really hit her but she planned to stay after the meeting and just reflect on the time she has spent in the board room as a teacher, speech coach and now a school board member.
"It's a beautiful space and it has served us well," Lofald said. "I look forward to what this building will become for the city and community in the future."
The last meeting in the historic building, an end of an era, started off with the recognition of an Ordean East Middle School social worker for her excellent work. It continued with public comment, which at times in the past has been contentious.
The public comment was given by many people who wanted to bring an issue in the district to the board’s attention. On Tuesday night, that issue was not having a fourth and fifth grade class for the Misaabekong Ojibwe Language Immersion program at Lowell Elementary School, which the district has told parents is due to lack of interest. Those who spoke asked the district to reverse their decision on the Misaabekong program and offer a fourth and fifth grade split class.
The meeting continued as normal. Magas gave a presentation about the district operations, staff shortages and bus driver shortage challenges. The board approved resolutions to set the 2022 preliminary levy at the maximum and award bids for the construction of a new transportation center, administration and facilities buildings on the back third of the Central High School property on the hill.
Future regular school board meetings held on the third Tuesday of each month will be held at Denfeld High School’s media center. The committee meeting locations are still to be determined, though Lofald said they are exploring holding those meetings at the UnitedHealthCare Group building along Rice Lake Road, where administration will be located for the next two years.
Lofald also announced Tuesday night that future meetings will not be live-streamed for the time being but will be recorded and then uploaded to the district’s YouTube channel for viewing the following day.