ISD 709 News 10/15/21

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families:

We have many amazing things going on this week, thanks to the dedication and hard work of so many great students, staff and families. For one, I am looking forward to the Denfeld / East football game, but I am trying to figure out how to cheer for two teams at the same time!

While these activities are quite positive, we are certainly not without struggle. Our COVID case rates are projected to rise substantially in the coming weeks. We are also seeing more positive cases in our schools, despite many precautions.

We all believed in June that this year would be much different. Mask mandates were lifted and we were directed by the state to prepare for a relatively normal fall. While we have successfully maintained full in-person instruction, it has not been easy. Labor shortages in key areas of substitute teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers and nurses, impacts on supply chains, and safety issues have made it a very challenging year, and for some, harder than last year, in part because of the need to continue after months of struggle in this wave of the pandemic

I had a near death experience when I was younger that sometimes helps me see the light in tough times. I was living in Mexico, teaching English and had traveled to a beach in Oaxaca for a short vacation. Renting a hammock for a dollar a night and hiking and swimming during the day, I was in heaven.

I took up body surfing, which is basically just riding a wave without a board. At one point I saw an incredibly massive wave coming towards me, the biggest I had ever seen. I positioned myself to jump up and forward to catch the crest, but it was too big. I was spun under the wave like a rag in a spin cycle, dragging me deeper and into the rough sand and rocks below. I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it.

I gasped for air just as my head popped above the water, but saw that an even bigger wave was right upon me, dragging me deep into its vortex. I was certain that I would not make it. I popped out again, and there was no other wave coming, as I had been swept beyond the breakers by the undertow. Land was so far off that the people gathering in horror to watch my possible drownding looked like ants.

Exhausted, I remembered the voice of my always concerned mom saying, “swim parallel to shore if you ever get caught in an undertow. I did so, despite not having any strength and then eventually exited the invisible river and slowly plodded my way back to shore.

This second fall of pandemic education is a big wave. For all of us. It hits each of us in different ways, but it has hit all of us. At times it can feel like it can pull us under, or that we don’t have the energy to swim on. But I know that we are an incredibly strong district and community. I know that we have the strength, heart and perseverance to make it through our challenges. Swim parallel to shore and we’ve got this, Duluth.

With appreciation,

John Magas

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


Free COVID Tests

COVID-19 testing remains a key part of keeping our students, workers, and families safe. With the at-home program and 11 community testing sites offering free testing across the state, the state has made it easy for Minnesotans to find a test.

How Minnesotans can get a COVID-19 test:

  • Walk in or schedule an appointment for a free test at one of the state’s 11 community testing sites across Minnesota: COVID-19 Community Testing Sites.
  • Order a free test through the state’s at-home testing program: COVID-19 Test at Home.
  • Find other testing options near them through the state’s Find Testing Locations map, including through local providers, pharmacies and clinics: Find Testing Locations.

Who Should Get Tested

  • Even if you are vaccinated, Minnesotans should get tested:
    • if you have symptoms of the virus;
    • if you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19;
    • if you are returning from international travel;
    • or if you have attended a large gathering or event where people are not wearing masks and are not able to stay 6 feet apart.
  • People who are unvaccinated should test before travel (domestic or international).
  • Unvaccinated teachers, staff and students in K-12 should test weekly at a minimum or more frequently per CDC guidance.


As the COVID pandemic continues, our schools continue to review and update response to ensure health and safety. The Safe Learning Plan reflects current local planning and is subject to change based on local, state and national guidance.

Details at www.ISD709.org/SafeLearningPlan

State and County Data:

Minnesota Weekly COVID Report

Access St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard

SRO Effectiveness Survey

This survey is designed to elicit student, family, and community feedback about your experiences with student resource officers (SROs) in Duluth Public Schools for the purposes of supporting and informing policy decisions in the school district.

  • Your responses will remain anonymous (unless you share identifying information in your comments) and will be considered alongside the responses of other members of the Duluth Public Schools to determine community preferences and best practices for student safety and success in school.
  • If you choose to share identifying information in your comments, those comments will be de-identified (i.e. specific details which might identify you to someone in the district will be removed from any data or reports shared with the district) in order to protect your privacy and create the space for honest feedback about your experiences.
  • In support of these goals, the information collected through this survey will be analyzed by an independent nonprofit organization specializing in community-based participatory research and engagement and reported back to district leadership.
  • The reports created for Duluth Public Schools from the de-identified information shared will be available for review in a public forum once published at projects.marnitastable.org, in case you would like to follow up, stay informed, or reflect on the input of the other participating members of the Duluth Public School community.
  • Please complete the survey by October 25, 2021, thank you!


Any questions about the design, analysis or use of this survey data can be directed to elexis@marnitastable.org. We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your candor and participation!

Update: Moving Out of HOCHS

Information from Cathy Erickson, CFE/Director of Business Services:

Duluth Public Schools are about 80% moved out of 2nd & 3rd floors of Historic Central to the UnitedHealth Group (UHG) temporary lease space. There are a few departments and staff staged to move on Monday and early next week, so there will be continued activity in the North East Section of UHG.

New Duluth Public Schools District Administration Address at UHG:

Duluth Public Schools - ISD 709

4316 Rice Lake Road, Suite 108

Duluth, MN 55811

Our journey continues, and we greatly appreciate the continued teamwork as we make UHG our home for a few years.

ALC/AEO Tech Center Move

Info from Nathan Glockle, Principal:

This week our Area Learning Center (ALC) and Academic Excellence Online HS (AEO) began moving to the Tech Village which is right off of Superior Street and Lake Avenue, (11 East Superior Street).

  • Staff and faculty will be in temporary spaces until the build out is complete.
  • Students are still being accepted into all programs, including Seat-Based, Independent Study/Credit Recovery and AEO.
  • Their administrative office will be on the 1st floor at Tech Village in Suite 140.
School contact information remains the same: Phone: 218-336-8756 or contact the school secretary at valarie.wagenbach@isd709.org.

New ALC/AEO Spaces Video Tour

Companies to Classrooms Move

Companies to Classrooms, which had space in the basement of HOCHS, began moving out of Old Central this week.

If all goes as planned, they'll re-open at the beginning of November in the Grant Recreation Center, 101 E. 11th Street. That's near Myers-Wilkins Elementary.

Companies to Classrooms, Duluth links schools and communities by recycling business surplus into supplies for local classrooms.

Thank you, Cathy Erickson, for the photos of their move.

Duluth School Bus Drivers Make A Difference - Apply Today!

Make a positive difference by becoming a Duluth school bus driver, our schools need you. Apply today if you’re a school bus driver looking for work OR hold a CDL license or a valid drivers license with a good driving record (we’ll pay to train you!) OR a retired school bus driver willing to work this school year.

NEW Starting Wage: $19.54/Hr, Minimum 25 Hrs/Week

Paid Training

Excellent Benefits, Single & Family:

  • Medical/Prescription Drug

  • Health Reimbursement Account

  • Dental

  • Life Insurance

  • Long Term Disability

  • Flexible Spending Accounts

  • Dependent Care Accounts

  • Retirement

  • Tax-Shelter Annuity Options

  • Time Off

Duluth Public Schools is an equal opportunity employer


Duluth Public Schools provide rewarding regular and substitute jobs in a variety of roles. Plus a robust benefit package to full-time employees and part-time employees who meet eligibility requirements. Please share this information with people you know - encourage them to join our team!

Current Job Openings

Questions? Email: noncerthr@isd709.org or call (218) 336-8722

Follow Us for ISD 709 News

Denfeld Student Athletes Helping Others

Members of the Denfeld boys soccer team recently teamed up to fill 480 grocery bags with food for distribution to local kids/schools from the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. Team members helping out include Joe Eklund, Isaak Regas, Simon Davidson, Carson Schulte, Skyler Fossum, Gus Haugen, Josh Rock, Brayden Rock, Parker Chastey, and Coach Scott Anderson.

#Inspire709 #HunterPrideCommunityWide


Duluth Debate Team Member Makes Super Congressionals

Congratulations to Nathan Mikesell, Duluth East, who recently earned an opportunity to advance to Super Congressional Debate at the Lakeville Tournament! After 4 hours of competition he earned a spot in the top 15 of 60 participants. This style of Debate is very much like the U.S. House and Senate Legislative Sessions. Lots of research, current event knowledge and top notch speaking skills earned Nathan a spot in this final session.

Thank you, Jill Lofald, for the information and photo.



Community Support for Schools

Staff from Maurices visited our schools this week to deliver gift baskets in appreciation of ISD 709 teachers and staff and all they do for children, families and our community. Many thanks to Maurices for their thoughtfulness and generosity.

Thank you, Stowe Elementary, for the photo.


Amazing Session for Denfeld, Duluth East Jazz Bands

Denfeld and Duluth East East Jazz Bands, working with distinguished jazz drummer/bandleader/educator Carl Allen. Thank you, Mr. Allen, for this amazing opportunity and to all who helped make it happen.




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