Our view: Tweak, don't overhaul Duluth school plan
How long is it going to be like this? With construction well under way, with students working hard to adapt to coming changes, and with the fall election unable to alter the School Board's voting bloc, alternatives as replacements for the Duluth ...
How long is it going to be like this? With construction well under way, with students working hard to adapt to coming changes, and with the fall election unable to alter the School Board's voting bloc, alternatives as replacements for the Duluth school district's long-range buildings plan should be things of the past.
Yet they keep coming, short on details, void of public input, but heralded in some circles anyway as superior to what was approved 2½ years ago. Never mind that what was approved in June 2007 and is now, on the doorstep of 2010, in the middle of being implemented came about after hundreds of hours of public meetings and every opportunity for anyone who wanted to offer input and feedback to do so. And never mind that many of the major changes being proposed now were considered then and were rejected for various good reasons.
First there was Plan B, created by professionals but without a single public meeting. Does anyone even still support Plan B? By law, Duluth will get to take an expensive vote, its results merely advisory.
And now there's "red plan plus," created by a few parents and a University of Minnesota Duluth professor emeritus without public input or any attempt to gauge the wishes of the community. "Plus" would keep open Central High School while shuttering the city's middle schools even though, in the long run, continuing to operate Central would prove costly. "Plus" calls for converting Duluth's three public high schools from grades nine through 12 to grades seven through 12. Yes, seniors in high school, who are nearly grownups, would be attending school with seventh-graders, or children. Also, stand-alone middle schools, as opposed to schools for grades seven through 12, offer superior student outcomes, the School Board and school district have determined.
And now there's also a proposal from the Duluth teachers union to relocate the district's new "western" middle school to "Central" High School. The proposal ignores where Duluth's largest concentrations of students live, which isn't near Central but by Denfeld and Wheeler Field in West Duluth and by Ordean and the current East High School in eastern Duluth. Locating schools where students live makes sense. Also, the district has invested more than $1 million in the western middle school site for things such as architectural drawings, engineering and soil testing. That's
$1 million lost under the teachers union's 11th-hour idea.
The red plan isn't perfect. No one ever claimed it was. But it's a comprehensive, long-range building and facilities strategy that the Duluth school district has long needed. The red plan can be made stronger with a School Board that continues to be willing to tweak details during implementation. Parents and others, including those responsible for red plan plus and other recent proposals, can be part of the tweaks. Their continued interest and constructive involvement can be a benefit.
But the time for a wholesale change of direction is past. It is time now -- and has been for a while -- to continue moving forward.