Duluth Schools Holds Second Boundary Project Meeting, Calmer than First

Second meeting at Denfeld more calm than first at East High School.

DULUTH, Minn.- Duluth Public Schools ISD 709 held its second community meeting at Denfeld High School Thursday to discuss changing the district’s boundaries. This comes after a tense meeting at Duluth East High School Wednesday night.

The public was able to discuss three proposed scenarios for realigning the district’s boundaries, to address overpopulation at Lester Park and Congdon Elementary Schools, among other demographic issues.

The meeting at Denfeld was much more peaceful than the night before at East, though parents still voiced their concerns about the proposed scenarios.

“The transportation and the transit of my daughter to school,” said Rice Lake parent Joe Doeville. “Right now, tonight it took me about 45 minutes to get here and weather can change in a quick hurry in Duluth, Minnesota.”

Parents like Doeville identified which of the scenarios they thought worked best for their children.

“Scenario #2 is definitely the best,” Doeville said. “That would put her at East High School v.s. Denfeld. Again just form the length of the transit time or travel time to school, it will probably at least be half the time.”

His preference of East over Denfeld echoes the feelings of the meeting the night before, which Denfeld students found hurtful.

“To hear people look so down, so poorly at Denfeld it hurts us,” Denfeld Senior Emma Natale said.

They recognize the difference between both schools, and a big change to the boundaries, they said, is one of the only ways to fix things.

“The opportunity isn’t equal for both of the schools,” said Natale.

“You can’t skirt around the issue in order to make change, you have to make sure that you’re taking the biggest step.”

Meanwhile, Doeville sees the problem as a smaller one, not one that should involve the whole district.

“I don’t necessarily see what the big problem is right now,” he said. “It sounds like we have one or two schools that are an issue and that we’re making this problem a district-wide issue, instead of addressing those localized problems with those schools.”

Natale and her friend Emily Tusken feel that the first scenario serves both schools’ needs, and the district’s needs, the best.

“I prefer Scenario 1,” Tusken said. “I think it had the most pros with the least cons, the elementary schools not being split up, and one of the most equal populations between the high schools with race and free and reduced lunch as well.”

According to Superintendent of Schools Bill Gronseth, people shouldn’t necessarily pick one scenario over the other, but the process involves choosing elements from each of the three in order to come up with one going forward.

“Looking at the elements of each of the scenarios rather than the whole scenario all at once,” Gronseth said.

“Saying we like this part, we don’t like this part, this part works for us, this part doesn’t–so that each of the pieces can be pulled out and then used to build a new scenario.”

Wednesday night’s meeting at Duluth East High School was contentious.

“I mean honestly, if you’re going to put a scenario, put everything on the board!” a parent at the meeting shouts.

The crowd of about 500 and their angry feelings were expected, said Gronseth.

“Y’know we’re all passionate about our schools and about our children’s education and so I fully expect people to be really engaged in this process.”

The Superintendent is looking forward to looking at all the in-person and online feedback, he said, which the community will still have an opportunity to provide later.

“This isn’t looking at the final recommendations at this point,” Gronseth said. “A final recommendation will be made to the board and then there will be further public meetings for listening sessions before the board makes a decision.”

The online survey to view and comment on the three scenarios is available here until February 3rd. After it closes, future community meetings will be announced.

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