Up to the voters: Duluth Schools to hold referendum for digital curriculum

The Duluth School Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night to return to voters with a request to invest in critically needed technology, security and digital curriculum upgrades across the district.

The proposed investment plan would spend $5.2 million per year over a 10-year term to create a resilient and sustainable digital infrastructure for the district and improve physical and digital security for students and staff. A referendum will be held during a special election on Tuesday, May 14 to give district residents the opportunity to vote on the investment.

Of the total first-year investments, the approximate breakdown of spending would include:

  • 24 % – Learning technology upgrades for classrooms, students and staff
  • 22% – Cybersecurity and physical safety measures such as firewalls, data encryption, security cameras, and 911 service
  • 16% – Digital curriculum and professional development
  • 15% – Technology and security maintenance staff
  • 13% – Digital infrastructure such as phone, internet, and software systems
  • 10% – Career and technical education program maintenance and upgrades

“This plan aims to improve student safety and academic success,” said Superintendent John Magas of the proposed investments. “These are fundamental investments that will contribute to students’ learning on a daily basis and help keep them and their information safe.”

The district asked voters to consider a similar plan during the general election back in November 2023. That plan was rejected by less than 300 votes, while a second ballot question to restructure debt spending was approved. The new plan would cost the same amount and support similar initiatives as the 2023 plan, but also invest in upgrades to equipment and resources to enhance career and technical education.

“The security and technology improvements that our district needs haven’t changed,” said Magas. “It was important to us to develop a plan to address these challenges now, rather than wait and let the gap between what we have and what we need grow even wider.”

If the referendum is approved by voters, a capital projects levy will be assessed on property owned within the district beginning in 2025. Owners of a $315,000 home would see a monthly tax increase of $10.87 per month.

Full details of the investment plan and referendum on May 14 will soon be available at FutureForward709.org. District leaders also plan to hold informational meetings with parents, staff and community groups over the coming months prior to the election to share details and answer questions about the referendum.