Education issues: Creativity, cooperation would yield workable plan for Duluth schools
The Duluth public schools could cooperate with the city of Duluth and the University of Minnesota Duluth to make the city more livable, more environmentally efficient and more fiscally responsible. Ideas borrowed from other educational systems co...
The Duluth public schools could cooperate with the city of Duluth and the University of Minnesota Duluth to make the city more livable, more environmentally efficient and more fiscally responsible. Ideas borrowed from other educational systems could be considered by Duluth school administrators as they move inexorably forward with their red plan.
They could donate Central High School to the city as multipurpose center. The Edina, Minn., school district consolidated two high schools into one of about 2,000 students and turned over the closed high school to the city as a community center. That school was on the same campus as a middle school and the district aquatic center. Programs, facilities and parking are now shared.
Central similarly could be turned over to Duluth as a community center, preserving all its amenities. The Central site has eight tennis courts, a soccer/football field, a baseball field, a softball field and two well-equipped gymnasiums. Music and drama organizations could make use of its fine auditorium and practice facilities.
It might even make sense to close historic Old Central as the school district's administration complex, moving all administration programs to the Central site. With the decreasing operating budget Duluth schools face, there will be significant reductions in school administration, and it could fit nicely into the new Central community building. The Duluth Preservation Alliance would love to have Old Central for its headquarters.
UMD solved a parking dilemma and made a strong environmental statement a few years ago when it announced it would give all students and staff free use of city-run buses. The university pays the Duluth Transit Authority a fixed amount each year, students and staff flash "U" cards, and jump on any bus going anywhere anytime at no cost to them. The arrangement has been a resounding success. Demand for parking on campus is more manageable, students like the convenience and cost savings, and the public mass transportation system is more viable, given the dependable cash infusion.
So maybe the public school system could consider returning to a plan it had in place about 10 years ago when middle school and high school students used city buses rather than classic yellow school buses to get to and from school. The city transit system accommodated with special routes and extra buses to handle early-morning and late-afternoon demand. There were many advantages: Students used any city bus anytime to get anywhere. Residents rode the extra buses added for students.
Another possible sharing of facilities between educational systems could involve the newly remodeled football and soccer stadium at UMD. The school district has announced intentions to build a new $6 million stadium for its new eastern high school. But it's likely the school district and UMD could work out a plan allowing East to hold football and soccer games at UMD, saving taxpayers some real cash.
One last idea: The red plan proposes two very different high schools in two very culturally different ends of town. Each high school could have significantly different educational plans, given their settings and student body makeups. So why not capitalize on those differences with open enrollment? Students and their families could choose the school that best fit their needs and aspirations. If East, for example, concentrated on college-preparation courses, college-bound western Duluth students could elect to enroll there. If Denfeld concentrated on performance arts, given its magnificent auditorium and other performance facilities, east-end students with flairs for drama could enroll there.
And let's not forget vocational arts. A fine vocation/technical school exists on the present Central site and could continue to grow and serve the entire region.
Everybody could win.
TOM BOMAN is a professor emeritus of education at the University of Minnesota Duluth.