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Ronstrom Column
Early Worley WarningOld Home Page2
Sleazy and ImmoralOld Home Page2


Its worse than anyone realized.

"With gross acreage at 26 acres, this leaves only 10.9 acres of ‘usable’ land.  That is one fifth [20%] the size recommended and needed."

January 28, 2009

To     Alice Seagren, MDE
            Duluth School Board District 709
            Keith Hamre, Duluth City Planning Department

Each of you has position and responsibility to influence the outcome of the Duluth Eastern High School —presently Ordean Middle School .

We know you have heard much about shortcomings of this site; they are not imagined---they are real, and they each affect short range and long range needs and success for one of our two major high schools.

Many of us have read or are aware of Minnesota Department of Education planning standards, guidelines and recommendations.  We realize the value of MDE’s long years of experience, research and knowledge.  We believe it is important to adopt these standards, guidelines and recommendations.  Currently ISD 709 Administration is trying to avoid meeting these standards by requesting variances and exceptions.

The recommendation that is flagrantly being ignored at the Duluth Ordean site is about minimum recommended site size.  MDE clearly states the minimum site size must be ‘useable’ land, and that excludes such things as property line setbacks and code setbacks such as required by Duluth city ordinance Chapter 51-Water Resource Management. At Ordean this measures 1.8 acres of property line setbacks, and 13.3 acres of shore land setbacks from the existing 40th Avenue Creek.  With gross acreage at 26 acres, this leaves only 10.9 acres of ‘usable’ land.  That is one fifth [20%] the size recommended and needed.  Developing land in the shore land setback is subject to receiving approval and permits for work in this zone.  [Tree removal, earthwork, turning over topsoil, vegetation removal, placing impervious surfaces, structures, construction activities causing soil compaction]

What this means is that this school will never be able to accommodate its necessary functions, such as:

·        Future building expansion [MDE standards highlight expansion needs three times in its first guideline paragraphs]

·        Safe and adequate on-site parking  [Avoiding off-site parking]

·        Outdoor activity spaces [lacking tennis, practice fields, softball fields, additional baseball field, track/football depending on setback permits]

·        Safe access and egress  [only 2 limited entry points for this major high school, both sharing heavy thru-traffic streets]

·        Separation of vehicular and student circulation and access spaces

·        Building setback from thru-traffic collector streets

·        Separated safe and adequate bus and student drop & waiting areas

·        Limited entry & turn around on-site bus circulation and parking [Separated from on-site student circulation]

·        Separation of thru traffic and school destination traffic

·        On-site water collection and runoff mitigation

·        Acceptable and expected student safety and security resulting from dense and close proximity to heavily traveled streets and drives at this Ordean site.   [Parents have the right to expect safety and security for their children attending a Minnesota public school—MDE has the responsibility and obligation to assure a safe environment for students]

Schools should be able to form positive forces within neighborhoods.  They can have a positive image and provide community use, pride and values.  This doesn’t happen when thru-neighborhood traffic and off-street parking result from problems which need to be solved during the initial site selection phase.  Even this important phase paid no attention to MDE’s recommendations to accomplish site selection such as:

Part 2.07 Selecting a School Site

1                    Specify the spaces needed for current school and community programs and for anticipated program EXPANSION.

2                    Form a school site selection team composed of school and district staff, parents, students, citizens, school-community partners and local officials [e.g. city and county planners, park board].

This section goes on to point out research and review local and regional planning and zoning requirements and other good site selection considerations. 

It is clear that everything your department has recommended in terms of site considerations and process has not been followed whether it deals with size, expansion needs, site selection process, compliance with codes, parking, athletic fields and more. 


Kent G. Worley, Landscape Architect  

Compare Ordean high's current plans with a real high school whose construction was supervised by none other than Dr. Dixon.


Check out this Dec. 14th 2008 column by Brian Ronstrom


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