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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Edison taps AtWater to search for high school real estate
PHOTO: Paul Goossens, left, and Tami Siebert explain the Edison high school proposal.
AtWater Group has been retained to find a structure and site suitable to host Duluth’s next high school, it was announced Wednesday.
Duluth Edison Charter Schools is pursuing the initiative. Although the Edison board has expressed a desire to provide a high school, it has not taken a formal vote to authorize the venture, said Head of School Bonnie Jorgenson. Members have held off until more is known about suitable real estate, she said, which is why Edison has partnered with AtWater.
“We have had constant and continual demand from our parents for many years now to make this step and begin to look for a site and pursue this vision of having a high school,” Jorgenson said at a morning news conference.
Duluth Edison would need from 60,000 to 70,000 square feet for a high school, said Paul Goossens, president of Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co., the non-profit entity that obtains and leases structures for local Edison schools. The new building preferably would be situated on a 10- to 15-acre site, he said.
“We’re going to begin work immediately,” to identify suitable real estate, said Brian Forcier, AtWater president.
A new structure would work better than repurposing an existing building, Goossens said. Edison currently has one structure of each type. Its K-5 Raleigh Academy in West Duluth is located in the former Good Shepard elementary school, while its North Star Academy on Rice Lake Road was build specifically as a K-8 school.
State lease aid is available to contribute toward financing the development, he said, along with other options.
“There are a few offerings in the marketplace that we can look at,” Forcier said, along with developable sites. A key existing structure is the former Duluth Central High School building, which Independent School District 709 is trying to sell. By doing so, however, ISD 709 might be putting itself in the position of losing its own high school students and per-pupil state aid to the Edison disrict. Currently, Jorgenson said, the majority of Edison students transfer to schools operated by ISD 709 or other Duluth-area schools after leaving Grade 8 at North Star Academy.
She anticipates Edison might be criticized by competing with the Duluth School District, which is struggling financially.
“When you move forward with a vision, there always is” criticism, Jorgenson said. “Parents have overwhelmingly expressed this desire, and I feel it’s really important we move forward to make that vision a reality.”
The site identification process could take about six months, Forcier said. Then, a year would needed to plan for the new high school, said Tami Siebert, president of Edison’s board.
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