For ISD 709 Faculty & Staff 11/13/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Colleagues,

We find ourselves in the midst of a surge, with COVID cases rising sharply and projected to continue to rise even more dramatically in the coming weeks. The number of students and staff testing positive and those in quarantine increased significantly this week, making staffing a challenge.

We continue to work closely with officials from Essentia Health, including their data scientists and epidemiologists. They have shared that our health systems are stretched to a dangerous point and they are pleading for the community to take dramatic action.

As shared earlier, state and local health officials have recommended that we make a shift to distance learning for several weeks. We join many other districts around the state in making that shift.

Next week, our hybrid elementary classes will transition to distance learning and we will pause in-person activities/athletics.

  • Elementary instruction of all students will fully pause for transition and preparation on November 18.
  • For transitioning elementary students and teachers, on the 19th and 20th, teacher supported at home learning will occur as we complete our transition to distance learning beginning the following week.
  • Secondary instruction will not be impacted by the transition.
  • Additional details will be provided over the next several days by the district as well as your principals. Jen Larva recently shared a guide to instructional expectations and we will be here to support you as we lean in and learn - together.

We are accelerating our efforts to minimize impact on our students’ learning, but have built in time for you to make this shift. I have also asked our families for patience with our teachers as we prepare for full elementary distance learning.

I know that each of you will be working hard and giving your best as we make this transition. It’s important, too, to give yourself a little grace as we try new things , as well as to take time for yourself.

In addition to instruction, one of the most important things we can do for our students at this time is to meet their social emotional needs. Focusing on relationships and checking in on how our students are doing can be just as and sometimes more important than academics. To help them we have to take care of ourselves, too. And as best we can, we need to try to be hopeful - for our students, for each other.

As I expressed earlier this week, our pause will continue through December 13. At least one week prior to that date, we’ll reassess the data and our situation. We will share a recommendation for resuming elementary hybrid and other activities at that time or continuing the pause through January 10.

Turning back the dial on in-person learning and activities is disappointing for all of us. I’m disappointed because I know the impact that it has on individual students, families, and on learning in general. I also know that it means a lot of extra work for staff members. It's not something any of us want or would choose to do, but sometimes the hard choice, the unpopular choice, is also the right choice.

It’s our hope, that through a community wide effort to promote safe practices, that our transmission rates will decline and allow us to resume in the near future.

We’re in a surge and all predictions are that things are going to get a lot more serious. Things are not normal or usual. They’re hard, and we’re all struggling to cope and to find ways to support each other to get through this. As a district, we will be here for you as we do so.

This is a once in a century global pandemic. Unprecedented. We have to work together to adapt and adjust and respond with skill as we take care of our kids and take care of ourselves.

Thank you for all that you do.


If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email: Superintendents@isd709.org

Next Week: Model Shift to Elementary Distance Learning, Activities/Athletics Pause

Duluth Public Schools will transition to distance learning for elementary students and pause in-person activities/athletics starting next week in response to rising COVID-19 cases in our community. Changes begin Wednesday November 18 and will be in place through at least December 13. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the pandemic together.

View the Details

Officials Urge Public Help To Address COVID Spike

Superintendent John Magas joined Mayor Emily Larson and local health organizations for a second virtual press conference to raise awareness of a surge and continued rise in COVID numbers.

The press conference was streamed to the City of Duluth’s Facebook page and shared on the Duluth Public Schools Facebook page.

Duluth News Tribune



Data for K-12 Schools: 14-Day COVID19 Case Rate By County - Subject to Update
Access St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard - Check bi-weekly case rates for schools

Employees: How to Report COVID

Find this information and more on the ISD 709 Staff COVID Web page

ISD 709 employees who:

  • are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19,
  • have tested positive for COVID-19 or
  • have been ordered to quarantine or isolate by the Minnesota Department of Health, another authorized agency, or their physician

must notify Crystal Diehl, Licensed School Nurse & COVID Coordinator.

They must do so by completing the COVID Reporting Form (preferred), or e-mailing reportcovid@isd709.org, or by calling (218) 336-8731.

  • Should principals, program managers, or other district staff be advised of a positive case, they are directed to report via the above methods and take no other action.
  • All staff must maintain confidentiality and refrain from discussing personal health information with others; the COVID Coodinator manages all communication and notifications to ensure compliance with HIPAA/FERPA data privacy laws.
Please see the COVID Reporting Tree for details on the communication process, following the MN Department of Health Guidance.

Thank You, Duluth Community Education Staff & Instructors

This week we recognize National Community Education Day, celebrating 51 years providing life-long learning opportunities for every member of the family. Governor Tim Walz also proclaimed Community Education Day in Minnesota.

Many thanks to our Duluth Community Education staff and instructors for all they do to support: Adult Education . Youth & Adult Enrichment . Aquatics Early Childhood & Preschool . School Age Care - KEY Zone . Facility Use . Community Partnerships And So Much More!


Learn More

100 Day Plan Update

This month, Superintendent Magas updated the Duluth School Board and Community regarding progress on the 100 Day Plan. Areas include academic excellence, equity, cohesive leadership teams, continuous improvement and planning for ongoing work. This includes development of a 5-year strategic plan to begin in the 21-22 school year.

View the Update

CSS Tutoring Support

Duluth Public Schools is entering into an agreement with the College of Saint Scholastica (CSS) to provide academic tutoring supports for our students that are participating in Distance or Hybrid Learning models.

CSS tutors will begin providing supports within the next couple of weeks.

  • Tutoring support is available online and will be provided through Zoom meeting links, as CSS accounts do not work with Google Meet.
  • CSS students do not have teacher access to Canvas or Seesaw and will not be working with teacher(s) to get work.
  • A parent can elect to give access rights as an observer to a tutor working with a student or the student can share the online learning with a tutor.
Parents must give permission for students to access these supports. Please complete the following form to indicate your interest in having your child participate to receive tutoring supports. Please include contact information so a tutor can reach out to you once the program is initiated.

Request Tutoring Support

Staff Circles of Support

This year continues to be difficult professionally and personally for many staff across the District. A healthy staff (mentally, physically, emotionally) equals better engagement and health from our students. They are interwoven.

To combat fatigue, frustration, unfulfillment, and isolation, school sites have optional and virtual staff support circles that they conduct weekly with their staff. These have offered a safe and caring place for staff to vent, collaborate, build community, and feel supported. All wonderful things. The goal is for this support to be at all sites. In its purest form a Circle is an open space that offers understanding and compassion without judgement. These are offered weekly.

Thank you to LPMS Restorative Practice Team for starting, facilitating, and engaging these Circles District wide.

Holiday Programs Paused This Year

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and guidance from the CDC, MDH and NFHS, Duluth Public School's Music department and schools are not able to provide an opportunity for holiday concerts or programs this year. The music department and schools will continue to monitor the ability to provide potential performances or concerts in the spring.

Sources of Strength - Week 1

From the ISD 709 Sources of Strength Team:

This week we focus on Family Supports. Whether related to us by blood, or by choice, these are the people who support, nurture and care for us. These can be people in our foster families, step families, biological families, extended families and chosen families.

Conversation starters:

  • What is an example of a time Family Support was really helpful for you?

  • What unique traditions do you have in your family/

  • How do you show Family support to others?


  • Have a family dance party at breakfast

  • Make a DIY cooking video with your family

  • Have a family game night

For additional ideas, check out this link (Family Support Activities)

Over the next weeks we will map out eight strength based conversations and activities for you to have and do at home. Neuroscience and Positive psychology show that we can change our brains: becoming more optimistic and successful when we have fun, leaning into our strengths and practicing gratitude each day!

Online: Sources of Strength

Big picture

ISD 709 News

We know there are a lot of great things going on in our schools - let's make sure we're letting everyone else know, too! Share your school, student, staff accomplishments, projects and events with Kathleen.Kaufman@ISD709.org, they'll be used in email newsletters, social media, websites and other communication venues.

Duluth ECFE - Early Childhood Family Education

Happy families are receiving their ECFE to Go bags filled with materials and activity ideas. ECFE to Go is distributed one time each month. The bags have separate envelopes for each week. All ECFE programs include parent education, early childhood education, and parent-child interaction.


ISD 709 Birth to Age 5 Programs

Duluth East Giving Tree

Students from Duluth East High School want to help make the holidays special for those in need. They've organized a virtual Giving Tree, please see below if you can help.

Duluth East Giving Tree

Please share this with your family and friends!

#Inspire709 #GivingBack


Congdon Student Gives Back

This Congdon Park fifth grader donated a book to the school library for her birthday in 2020. Other students can, too! The school will take a picture and share it on the school’s social media and will put a personalized bookplate in the book to celebrate the birthday donation.

#Inspire709 #GivingBack


Outdoor Phy Ed

Students and staff at Lowell Elementary are always ready to learn outside. And when the weather took a recent turn toward gorgeous, this Phy. Ed class took advantage. The kids did some warm up exercises and then took a hike in the woods.

#Inspire709 #LowellLions2020


Learning Outside the Classroom

Warm temps and sunshine brought Congdon Park students outside for their lessons. A great way to take advantage of an especially nice day.

#Inspire709 #OutdoorLearning


Follow Us For ISD 709 School News: