ISD 709 News 4/15/21

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families,

As we navigate the challenges of the pandemic it’s our goal to provide as many in-person learning opportunities for students as safely possible.

Our schools are also prepared to dial back if necessary. As we approach spring recess next week (April 19 - 23) local COVID rates are at almost 40 and health officials are projecting those rates to rise.

This rise would not impact the current elementary school model. However, if local numbers rise drastically or if there are significant outbreaks and spread within our schools, middle and high schools will need to dial back to a hybrid model.

The middle and high school hybrid model would be different from the half-day hybrid we used in early March. It looks like this:

  • Bell schedules are the same as 4 Day In-Person.

  • Groups A & C attend school together in-person Monday and Thursday and participate virtually through Canvas Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

  • Groups B & D attend school together in-person Tuesday and Friday and participate virtually through Canvas Monday, Wednesday and Thursday

We’ll continue to meet with local health officials over break, and update middle and high school families no later than Thursday April 22 if there's a need to move from 4 Day In-Person to Hybrid. Communication would include email and automated phone message and a post at www.ISD709.org/Updates. We may also share the information with local media and you may receive information from your school.

We will strive to continue safe in-person learning and opportunities for in-person graduation. The support of students, families, staff and our community in following COVID safety protocols is necessary and appreciated in helping make that possible.

With deep respect and appreciation,

John Magas

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


Duluth Principal Receives MESPA Leadership Award

Darren Sheldon, Principal for Lakewood Elementary, is the recipient of the 2021 MESPA Division Leadership Award, congratulations!
Recipients are nominated by their peers. The Award expresses appreciation to the many outstanding individuals in the principalship who have contributed generously to improving education, their communities, and their profession. They serve as role models and sources of inspiration to other principals and educators.

Dr. Sheldon said the three most significant accomplishments of his career include Incorporating the Success for All Reading/Math Reform Model (Reading First & CSRD Grants), Chairing the Fine Arts Curriculum Committee and serving as Teacher Center Director, Middle School Assistant Principal, Activities Director, Federal Programs Coordinator, District AdvancEd Chair and service on many state committees. Educational honors include Bell Ringer Award, AdvancED State Committee, Reading First State Applicant Reviewer, Early Childhood State Committee, NCA State Board and Region III Elementary Principal Representative.



Thank You, Duluth Media Specialists!

April is School Library Month with a host of celebrations recognizing our District Media Specialists who promote the love of literacy in Duluth schools. Many thanks to Kevin Anderson, Mary Courage, Tara Gushulak, Colleen Knettel, Cindy Miller, Elizabeth Peterson, Brian Schilling, Sheryl Van Scoy, and Patti Wipson. Research shows that school library programs staffed by qualified school media specialists have a positive impact on student academic achievement. School libraries provide a safe haven for all students to think, create, share, and grow.


Thank You, Duluth Early Childhood Teachers & Staff!

April 11 - 16 is National Week of the Young Child, celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities. Many thanks to our Duluth Early Childhood staff and all they do to support families and give children a strong start:
  • Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), Duluth Preschool, Early Childhood Screening, Help Me Grow

The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

#Inspire709 #WOYC21


Duluth Schools Planning for 2021 Graduation Ceremonies

Denfeld and Duluth East High School officials are planning for in-person ceremonies, making adjustments to take COVID safety into consideration. ALC and AEO are planning a pre-recorded graduation ceremony for posting online.

Denfeld shared the possibility of an outdoor, all-class graduation on the Public Schools Stadium football field (weather permitting) or two separate ceremonies in the Denfeld Auditorium. Students could choose a single graduation time slot in the Denfeld Auditorium with family and friends.

Duluth East shared plans for two separate ceremonies at Amsoil Arena, again to provide for social distancing. Both schools emphasized that plans could change at any time, if necessary, in response to the pandemic.

"We ask everyone in our community to continue to follow COVID safety protocols to stop the spread and ensure students are able to graduate in-person, with their friends and family this year," said John Magas, Superintendent.

Duluth News Tribune


Update: In-Person Prom Events Not Possible Due to COVID

As a school district, we want to provide as many opportunities for student activities and events as safely possible.

In consulting with health officials and reviewing current local COVID rates, it’s clear in-person proms for Denfeld and Duluth East in May will not be possible without risking substantial COVID spread. As of April 14, local COVID rates are approaching 40 and health officials are projecting those rates to rise.

In discussions with district and school administration and student leaders, there’s consensus that it’s best to make the decision to cancel prom now, rather than have students and families spend time, money and resources and then cancel. While it was emphasized that plans for prom could change due to COVID, some disappointment in hearing this news is also understandable.

We'll continue working to provide in-person learning and opportunities for in-person graduation. We appreciate the support of students, families, staff and our community in following COVID safety protocols and helping make that possible.

Supporting COVID-19 Safety

Mr. CherPao Vang, ISD 709 Paraprofessional, is featured on a recent American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) COVID-19 vaccination billboard. It's located on about 23rd Ave W and Superior St. He is joined by Dr. Susana Pelayo-Woodward from UMD.

Photos for the campaign were taken by Ivy Vainio, Climate and Cultural Resiliency Program Coordinator at AICHO, who provided this infomation:

"AICHO has been on the forefront with health advocacy for/with our communities since the beginning of the pandemic with cultural messaging on social media, posters, calendars (we commissioned Indigenous artists), and now our “Get Vaccinated” billboards featuring our respected leaders in our community through our partnership with Minnesota Department of Health."

Thank you, JP Rennquist, for sharing the photo and this information.


Bagged Meal Service Pause Apr19-23

Bagged Meal distribution will pause April 19 - 23 for spring recess. Service resumes Monday April 26.

Check Online for Details

HOCHS Project Updates

Updates related to the HOCHS project are posted at www.ISD709.org/Property.

Duluth News Tribune


From Here Forward Video Campaign

Tracy Litman, School Social Worker at Ordean East Middle School, created a video campaign called “From Here Forward."

Watch the Video

"The focus of the campaign is to encourage young people and their parents to use their spirit, energy and courage to stop the misuse of social media," said Litman. "Students feel like they can never make a mistake without the whole world knowing or ever having it go away, because it exists forever on social media. I believe our youth and their families have the power and ability to turn this around and create a pathway for youth to have a vision beyond today and the ability to learn and grow, as they should."


Duluth Preschool Registration Open for Fall 21-22

Duluth Preschool focuses on building social emotional skills, language and literacy, health and nutrition, physical and development for all children.

Apply For Fall 21-22

Call 218-336-8815


Email: earlychildhood@ISD709.org

Preschool programs are located in 7 elementary schools across the city, providing high quality early childhood classroom experiences.

Parent Aware Rated - Four Stars of Excellence: One of the first preschool programs in the state to earn a four-star Parent Aware rating - the highest possible! This system helps families find programs focused on high quality early learning and kindergarten readiness.

Sources of Wellness: Anger Management

Sources of Wellness topic ideas? Please email Jacob Laurent at jacob.laurent@isd709.org

Anger will feel differently depending on the person, but often we have a physical response to anger. Our muscles tighten, our rational thinking stops, and we can lose control of our actions. Many mental health professionals agree that anger is covering for another emotion like sadness, shame, anxiety and guilt. Pause and think about anger this week, think about your own life and if anger can exist without another deeper emotion behind it.

Conversation Starters:

  • What are situations that can trigger your anger?

  • Can anger ever be a ‘good’ thing? A ‘bad’ thing?

  • What does your Anger Response look like?

  • Talk about Needs: What is it that you need from your family and/or friends when you are angry? Have them share as well so that we can support one another.


  • Look back to 3 different times you were angry. Try to find the emotion that was behind the anger. Was it truly an anger response or a deeper emotion?

  • Create a ‘Cool Down’ list of different strategies and activities that help you get out of an anger mindset. It could be deep breaths, running, time alone, doodling, etc.

  • Try out one of the Links below! Take the Angry Quiz, try a breathing exercise, create or find activities that help you cool down.


How to Cool Off when you're Angry

6 Breathing Exercises to Calm Down

The Anger Quiz

Companies to Classrooms: Office Supply Donation Drive April 22

Companies to Classrooms is holding an office supply donation drive for area schools on April 22. Businesses, organizations and individuals are encouraged to donate gently used supplies.

In highest demand: rolling chairs, small-medium bookcases, small tables, reams of printer paper, binder clips and staplers. C2C also accepts donations of new school and art supplies.

C2C Duluth is a nonprofit that collects donations from companies, individuals and organizations and gives them away to teachers through a free store.

What: Companies to Classrooms Earth Day Office Supply Donation Drive

When: Thursday, April 22 from 10:00-3:00

Where: 215 North 1st Ave East, Duluth, MN 55802

Sign Up: bit.ly/c2cdonation or call (218) 336-8700 (ex 1180) to schedule a donation drop off or pick up time

More details at: facebook.com/freesuppliesforteachers

In The News

Denfeld Student Author Chosen for Freedom Writers Foundation Project

Chales Mims, Denfeld High School, is one of 50 student authors chosen from around the world for the next book published on behalf of the Freedom Writers Foundation in Long Beach, CA.

Chales is a junior and will work with nationally renowned teacher Erin Gruwell and the original Freedom Writers over the next year. In addition, Chales receives a new computer, a new web/video cam and will fly to Washington, DC for a Freedom Writers event in April 2022.

Photo: Duluth News Tribune


Duluth News Tribune




Lester Park News Team: Lester Park Elementary students launched a weekly news show. The show included school announcements, weather, sports, a history segment, and even a poll for each class to participate in.

Photo: WDIO-TV10


Superintendent John Magas lifted up Duluth East student and staff response to a recent lockdown. The lockdown regarded ammunition found in a locker.

Duluth News Tribune




State Bound Hunters and Hounds

Members of both the Denfeld and Duluth East Speech Teams are advancing to the MSHSL State Speech Tournament, congratulations!

Denfeld: Tessa Schauer, Madi Watts

Duluth East: Amma Okoro, Naomi Meints, Joseph Warner, Beron DeArmond, Natalie Miller

The Duluth East Speech team also took the 2nd place team award for 7AA.

Like all MSHSL athletics and activities our competitive season looked different, with teams competing across the state virtually. Kudos to our students for their dedication and resiliency!




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