Weekly Update

Duluth Public Schools News May 13, 2022

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear families:

It was a week of ups and downs for me in my work with the district this week.

We held the annual American Indian Education graduation celebration last night at Clyde Ironworks. It was a wonderful opportunity to join in honoring the students graduating from East, Denfeld and the ALC. The pride and joy on the faces of our graduates were evident as they were recognized by the district and family members in this culturally responsive event.

Wednesday, I testified before the state joint finance committee in support of the House Education Omnibus bill that helps solve the special education cross-subsidy issues. From Fiscal Year 2016 to Fiscal Year 2021, Duluth Public Schools had a combined adjusted net Cross Subsidy of over $42,373,000. This is in addition to the projected loss of over $5 million since 2016 due to our special education funding anomaly due to tuition billing impacts. We remain hopeful for funding changes that will positively impact learning for all students.

Also Wednesday, we recognized National School Nurses Day. We are so thankful for the work that they do to support the health needs of our students, especially during the challenges of the pandemic. I also want to recognize that today is National School Communications Professionals Day and thank Adelle Wellens for all that she does to lead district communications, including coordinating this newsletter.

Finally, on a more personal note, I just tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time. I will be using some of my sick time for my quarantine and will also be working remotely to the extent possible. I share this with you openly, as it is a good reminder that Covid is still with us. We need to continue to take precautions. Staffing shortages are creeping back and we ask for your help in staying safe as we finish the school year strongly!

With deep gratitude and appreciation,

John Magas

If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email:


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St. Louis County moves to medium community level transmission

As of Thursday, May 12, St. Louis County has moved into a medium community level transmission per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Per our safe learning plan, the district is strongly recommending masks be worn.

The COVID-19 community levels updated every Thursday will show us if the levels are low, medium or high.

  • Under low, mask-wearing in buildings and on buses is optional but not mandated.
  • Under medium, the district strongly recommends mask-wearing in buildings and on buses but does not mandate it.
  • Under high, the district would require masks to be worn in school buildings and on buses.

Students should stay home if they are sick

For the safety of our students, staff and families, we ask that you please continue to screen your child daily for any symptoms of illness and keep them home if they are ill. COVID-19, Influenza, Strep Throat, Norovirus, and basic colds are still present in our community and affecting some of our students.

If your student is experiencing any COVID-19 like symptoms, please keep your student home and test as soon as possible. Please review Duluth Public Schools district webpage for our current COVID-19 guidelines.

Homegrown Music Festival recommends attendees get tested for COVID-19

Homegrown Music Festival posted on Facebook Thursday that several people have been receiving positive COVID-19 test results since attending the Homegrown Music Festival.

They are recommending that anyone who attended a Homegrown event from May 1-8 get tested for COVID-19.

The DECC is still offering saliva and rapid COVID-19 testing:

Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday-Monday, CLOSED

District COVID-19 numbers

These numbers reflect positive COVID-19 cases by site. The total includes all self-reported positive cases based on the date the case was reported to the school district. Not every person who reported a positive case was in a district building while contagious. These numbers include at-home COVID-19 test kits.

The CDC and Minnesota Department of Health only report positive cases where the person was inside a school building while infectious. The department’s numbers do not include positive cases determined by an at-home COVID-19 test kit.

They do this because there is not a medical professional present to:

  • Confirm who is taking the test,

  • That the home test has not expired,

  • That a proper sample is taken and more.

The CDC and Minnesota Department of Health is also reporting numbers that are at least a week old. If you have questions regarding these numbers, feel free to send your questions to covidquestions@isd709.org.

Detailed updates are available from the Minnesota Department of Health and St. Louis County Department of Health.

Minnesota Weekly COVID Report

Minnesota Situation Update

St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard

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Education Equity Advisory Committee Strategic Planning meeting

Duluth Public Schools is launching a comprehensive strategic planning process that will be created with input from DPS students, staff, families, and community members focused on future system-wide enhancements to improve outcomes for students.

The goal is to create a "classroom to boardroom" process to have a clear & unified vision of the district's purpose while working together to bring desired outcomes and core values to light.

The district is hosting a strategic planning session during the Education Equity Advisory Committee (EEAC) meeting Monday, May 16 from 5-8 p.m. at the American Indian Community Housing Organization building at 202 W. 2nd St. downtown. Masks are required by AICHO.

Everyone is invited to attend this meeting.

Computer Science for Duluth (CS4DLH) Springs Into Coding

Students and families have an exciting opportunity to learn more about coding and computer science during the weeks of May 9 and May 16. Technology is all around us and these activities will help you and your students understand more about how it works.

Elementary Students: Join us for Family Code Week starting May 9th! There will be a computer science activity each day. Packets for the unplugged activities will be sent home on Monday, May 9th. Additional activities will also be available at all Duluth Public Library branches.

  • Thursday, May 12: Unplugged Activity #2: Mapping

  • Friday, May 13: Students will share in class

Middle and High School Students: The following week, May 16, in middle school math classes, students will be learning about how images are stored digitally using pixels, including creating their own pixel art images. In freshmen physical science classes, students will be learning about robotics using Spheros, including how to program them.

The Depot STEAM Festival is May 14

Youth in grades K-5 are invited to a free fun-filled day of robotics, hands-on science experiments, art, music environmental learning, interactive activities, displays and more during The Depot STEAM Festival, Saturday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Denfeld DNA robotics tea, Devildog FTC and Lego Robotics will both be at the event.

Visit z.umn.edu/DepotSTEAM for more information on the event.

Ordean East student places in National PTA Reflections Art Program

Abigail Froehle, an Ordean East Middle School 8th grade student, placed at Nationals in the PTA Reflections Art Program in Literature. Her piece, titled, "Heroes and Villans," received the Award of Merit.

The annual PTA Reflections Art Program encourages students to express themselves through the arts. This year's theme was "I Can Change the World By..." Nearly 300,000 students from across the country, and in American schools overseas, participate annually in the National PTA’s Reflections program. The awards program spans six arts categories (Dance Choreography, Film Production, Music Composition, Photography, Literature, and Visual Arts) across four grade divisions and the Special Artist Division.

The Reflections program is the National PTA’s cornerstone arts program. It was developed in 1969 by Colorado’s PTA President Mary Lou Anderson to encourage students to explore their talents and express themselves. Since then, the Reflections program has inspired millions of students to reflect on a specific theme and create original artwork. National PTA believes every child deserves a quality arts education. Participation in arts programs like Reflections develops the whole-child, nurtures creativity and teamwork, and connects families and schools to one another and to their communities. Learn more at PTA.org/Reflections.

Noah Pauley awarded coaching fellowship with Green Bay Packers

Central High School alumnus Noah Pauley, who went on to play and coach at Minnesota Duluth, will work with the Green Bay Packers over the next two months as part of the NFL's Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship.

Congratulations Noah! We are proud of you!

Duluth News Tribune Story

Denfeld named BARR School of Excellence

Denfeld High School is in its 5th year of being a BARR school and the success of its program comes down to the people on the ground doing the work.

BARR stands for "Building Assets, Reducing Risks." It is an educational model that focuses on teachers creating strong relationships with students as a way to make sure the students succeed.

Over 50 staff members at Denfeld have been part of building the BARR program at Denfeld throughout the years and that number continues to grow. Each individual person, from administration to teachers, counselors, social workers, integration specialists, school psychologists, and administrative assistants has played an important role in building and sustaining a quality program to support our students.

Recently, 9th-grade counselor and BARR Coordinator Jennifer Wellnitz and Denfeld Principal Tom Tusken attended the BARR National Conference in Palm Springs, CA, where Denfeld was awarded the BARR 2022 School of Excellence honor.

Denfeld is one of six schools out of two hundred plus BARR schools in the nation to receive this designation. This is a very big honor that is all due to Denfeld's intentional commitment to building and fostering positive relationships with our 9th-grade students.

2021-2022 Plan to Administer Minnesota Student Survey

Our school district is asking students in grades 5, 8, 9 and 11 to participate in the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey (MSS). Federal law requires us to notify parents of this school activity. The MSS is conducted in schools across our state every three years.

Questions on the survey include many topics relating to young people’s lives. The survey asks about how well school is going, future plans, out-of-school activities, physical and mental health, relationships, substance use and more. High school students are also asked about sexual behavior. This information about their thoughts and behaviors helps communities and schools develop effective programs and provide better services.

This survey is anonymous. To prevent individuals or families from being identified, students do not provide their names, student identification numbers, or other personal information.

This survey is voluntary. Students will be informed that they may decline to take any part of the survey or the whole survey. You may also choose to have your child not take the survey by completing and returning the form below.

Dates the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) will be administered:

  • Elementary Schools (Grade 5): June 6 - 9

  • Middle Schools (Grade 8): May 30 - June 9

  • High Schools (Grades 9 & 11): May 23 - 27

If you have questions about the survey or would like to review a copy in advance, please contact Dr. Tawnyea Lake at tawnyea.lake@isd709.org or 218.336.8700 x1027.

If you would like to opt your student out, please see the form below.

Denfeld High School Theatre Presents "Romeo and Juliet"

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