Dear Ms. Bomstad,
Approximately one year ago we exchanged correspondence. Thank you, again, for your reply at that time to some questions about the Duluth school proposed to be a high school, currently Ordean Middle School .
Many have watched the planning process for the Ordean site carefully in regard to this school, and I can report that the same site problems remain having had no meaningful changes since early correspondence to your office, to the local Duluth School Board and its Superintendent. Having lived in the Ordean neighborhood for 37 years, I know the site very well, and know what the site is capable of handling. My intent is to help reinforce your office concerning school planning which needs to meet your recommendations and guidelines. The Ordean site does not! Resulting serious student safety is compromised along with several related issues.
The land that your department stated should be added to the 26 acre site has not, and will not be added. Your department guidelines for a high school this size are 50 to 55 acres of “useable” acreage. Usable is defined, in MDE Part 2.07-Selecting a School Site, to exclude zoning [code] setbacks. In the case of the Ordean site, the property line and shorelands Code Chapter 51-Water Resource Management setbacks reduce the 26 gross acre site to approximately 11 acres of “usable land”. This is obviously something that the district’s original task of site selection failed to understand or consider. The district’s site selection process also failed to follow the MDE guidelines and standards, which may define why the problem exists.
Of several site plan options prepared to date, one plan proposed 675 parking spaces, while the latest plan option is now reduced to 363 spaces. Each plan option shows 77 of these spaces to be located at an off-site parking lot across a heavily traveled city collector street.
I have found three standards for parking at high schools: [basis: 1,800 student population]
Your letter using ratios stated March 24, 2008
It is clear that the Site Plans prepared for Ordean high school are severely limited by trying to keep development out of the setback zones, and this is the reason for such things as having only 363 spaces when 800 to 1,000 are needed, and why 77 of the spaces shown are OFF-SITE and across a significantly hazardous collector street. This same ‘useable acreage’ site condition is causing other equal hazards for students, drivers and parents. Examples follow:
The bus delivery lane, the two on-site student parking lots, and parent-drop driving lane has been shortened to a dead-end drive which means this drive will have an estimated 20+ busses, unknown numbers of parents dropping and picking up their kids, plus however many staff and students who can negotiate this crowded drive to fill a portion of the on-site parking lots of 229, and 57 spaces. On the side opposite the school along this ’delivery lane’, and immediately adjacent to it at only 24 feet away, is the baseball field and the 1.500 seat bleachers/track/football field. Imagine afternoon pick up with kids on both sides of this drive or a game day.
These summaries which have been provided to your office and the School Board over the past 20 months have described these identical unsafe and substandard site conditions. Apparently no one understands or believes this is someone’s responsibility to avoid these departures from recommended State guidelines for high school development.
The conclusion is, once again, that this Ordean Middle School site presents unworkable conditions resulting in unquestionable human safety hazard conditions. In addition, major problems from the sub-standard site size multiply including total lack of facility expansion space, lack of outdoor field activity areas and inadequate building and parking setback from local streets and residential areas. Even the additional land originally anticipated to add to the site is 1/3 within the City Water Resource Management setback regulations and would not be considered “usable” without variance and permit from the city.
Fortunately, an acceptable and feasible option does exist, and at substantial cost savings. It is simply utilizing the existing Central High School site for this East and Central high school combination. All these problems are solved by using the Central High School site, including traffic safety, accessibility, acceptable central location, future expansion space, existing outdoor recreational and competitive field facilities such as tennis, baseball, softball, football and track. Parking and bus arrival can be accommodated without sending kids across a busy street or loading local neighborhood streets with parked cars and thru-traffic on local neighborhood streets not designed for the volumes generated by an 1,800 population high school. The District’s Invaluable STC would remain at the Central High School site and continue its efficiencies and program convenience for students.
Please feel free to write if there are questions that can be clarified.
Kent G. Worley, Landscape Architect
Alice Seagren, Minnesota Department of Education