For ISD 709 Faculty & Staff 11/25/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Colleagues,

As we head into a time of reflection and thanks, I wanted to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude for the extreme efforts people are undertaking in the Duluth community.

Our staff is working hard to meet the needs of students and families. They're learning new skills, adjusting to nearly daily changes in guidance and serving as essential employees. Never before has the need to establish meaningful relationships and communicate effectively been more important, or as challenging.

Whether a teacher reaching out through a Google meet with a parent, a paraprofessional checking on a student whose attendance is slipping, or an administrator crafting their school newsletter, I am grateful for these connections. Sometimes it's signage put in place by facilities staff or the smile of a bus driver or food service employee, knowing they have helped someone get a much needed meal. I am sincerely grateful for each and every one of these acts.

I'm incredibly grateful for partnership with our families, for the many stories I've heard from mothers, fathers, grandparents and so many other trusted adults who are sitting side by side with a student they love, helping them complete a learning activity or just checking in to make sure they're doing okay. I am also thankful for the feedback shared with us about how we can improve. This can be a deeply frustrating time, and I empathize with the many concerns that are shared. Please know that we seek to improve every day and take your input to heart.

Our recent surveys indicate that a significant majority of students and families feel that the amount of communication they are receiving from their school and teachers is “about right." Given the many things we need to communicate, this is a celebration in and of itself, and doesn’t come about by itself. Our teachers strive to connect with each of our learners and our schools are always trying new ways to make sure their message is heard.

I am also appreciative of the resilience and powerful spirit of our students. As my older son said last year, “none of us signed up to be or wanted to be online students." Despite the obstacles, many have been able to find new ways to adapt. They have been thrust into a time of great challenge, yet in so many ways I'm heartened to see our youth rise to new levels of commitment and dedication to others. Our student athletes and executive boards are supporting us in kicking off new campaigns to support student mental health, attendance, and public safety.

I'm also thankful for the numerous partnerships with community organizations, the city and other municipalities, as well as individual citizens. A recent example is the Essentia Health Future Forecasting group that helps us look to the horizon as we prepare for the weeks to come. Today, they shared a new community resource, the Essentia Health COVID-19 Regional Projections dashboard, as well as a YouTube resource guide Video: How to Use the Essentia Health Predictions Resource. This is one example of the countless acts of support and sharing we have witnessed.

By no means am I minimizing the challenges that still exist. I just want to pause for a moment and reflect on some of the beauty that has emerged from the collective struggle that we have faced…together.


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

Distance Learning To Continue Through January 21, 2021

Duluth Public Schools announced that, given current and projected COVID rates, distance learning at elementary and secondary levels will continue through at least the end of first semester on January 21, 2021.

While in distance learning, the district will continue to provide bagged breakfast/lunches for pickup Monday through Friday when school is in session. Emergency Tier 1 childcare and KEY Zone services will continue. The extension of distance learning does not impact the Governor’s athletics and activities pause, which is scheduled through December 18. The district will await further guidance on athletics and activities from the governor’s office and other state officials.

More Online: www.ISD709.org/Updates

NEW! Help Desk for Students, Families

Beginning November 30, Duluth Public Schools families and students will have access to Help Desk support during digital learning. Help Desk Hotline 218-336-8732.

The Help Desk will be able to assist students and parents with questions related to district technical support issues, for example:

- District Chromebook support

- District AT&T hotspot support

- System login questions

- Filtering

- Limited personal devices and internet support

- Limited Digital Curriculum support

COVID Safety Encouraged

As COVID rates continue to climb in our region, employees are reminded that it is more important than ever to maintain proper safety protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19. Governor Walz issued a 4-week dial back on a number of activities, such as social gatherings, adult and youth sports, the closure of restaurants, fitness centers, theaters, etc.

With the holidays approaching, the Governor reiterated that unnecessary travel is strongly discouraged and if leaving the State, residents are encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days following their arrival/return.

While we encourage staff to carefully consider the risk of traveling, the District will not require employees to quarantine upon return from travel at this time. Please keep in mind that this guidance is subject to change should the State upgrade the quarantine guidance from a recommendation to a mandate. At all times, whether staying close to home or while traveling, employees are strongly encouraged to be especially diligent in practicing precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

  • Stay home when any experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • Maintain proper physical distancing
    • Ensure you are maintain at least six feet of distance between you and others
    • If you need to be within six feet, keep the interaction brief, avoid being near to others for 15 minutes or more
    • By doing so, you can limit your exposure and the potential for needing to quarantine due to close contact with a COVID+ individual
  • Wash hands often
  • Wear a face covering
    • Ensure you wear your mask properly
    • Mouth and nose should be covered completely
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily
ISD 709 Staff COVID Resources

MN Dept of Health: COVID Exposure Notifications

You can help protect your community & add your phone to the fight against COVID-19 today. It’s free. It’s anonymous. It helps slow the spread of the coronavirus in our communities. Visit covidawaremn.com for more.

Please Continue to Report Positive COVID Results

All staff and students need to continue to report positive COVID-19 results to the district during distance learning and remote working. The Minnesota Department of Health requires that the our school district report positive cases of COVID-19.

>>Students who test positive should report their result to their school health office.

>>Staff who test positive should report their result to reportcovid@isd709.org.

Thanks for your help and support as we address the pandemic.

Mental Health Resources Web

COVID affects people’s mental health as well as their physical health. The District is working to provide students and families with resources for mental health services and social emotional learning supports. One tool is a NEW web page. The site has tips for families to managing stress & anxiety during COVID. It also lists people at the district and school level that are available to help. Please reach out if you need support.

Visit The Web Page

Sources of Strength - Week 3

Mentors are the people and role models in our lives who we can trust and talk to. They inspire, guide and help us draw on our own strengths to be the best version of ourselves. Our mentors can be teachers, coaches, parents, family members, spiritual leaders or community members. This week we are especially grateful for the special mentors in our lives!

Conversation starters at home:

  • Who are three mentors you are thankful for?

  • Who is an adult that makes you feel safe to be yourself?

  • How do you show up as a mentor to others?

Activities for students:

  • Show appreciation: Tell a mentor they are doing a great job.

  • Be a mentor to a younger family member by helping them identify their strengths and gifts.

  • Write a note or email of gratitude to a mentor this week

Additional mentor activities can be found here:

Activities supporting Mentors

Online: Sources of Strength

NOTICE! Hotspot Information

ISD 709 is able to extend internet accessibility to distributed hotspots thanks to local grant funding.

  • Families who received a notice from PC's for People about the discontinuation of the hotspot coverage can disregard those now that funding has been secured.
  • If you have a hotspot and did not receive a discontinuation notice from PC's for People that means your hotspot is not registered and your connection will end on Dec. 3. Please reach out to your school in order to register your hot spot before coverage ends.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) received a ConnectMN Grant through the state of Minnesota. LISC made continued hotspot connections for ISD 709 students a grant priority and we will be using these funds to extend the hotspot connections until the funds are exhausted or when hotspots are no longer needed.

IMPORTANT! Support School Funding

Approved Free & Reduced Price Lunch applications generate state funding that provides important services and programs for our Duluth students. A decline in applications now can result in less programs and services for students in the next school year.

December 15 is the last day to have your application support this important school funding for next year. Please click here to complete the application. It's easy and confidential, apply any time, 24/7.

  • An eligible application can generate between $525 - $3,436 for each student based on the % of eligible students by school site.
  • Approved applications may also qualify students for discounted or free extra-curricular activity fees.

Applications can also be downloaded and returned to the building.

Questions? Call 218-336-8807, we're happy to help.

Mask Up, Back Up, Drive Up

The Duluth NAACP and Wilderness Health are holding free mask distribution events on Sunday November 29.

Volunteers will be handing out the masks from 2:00PM to 4:00PM at:

  • Denfeld High School, 401 N. 44th Avenue West
  • Asbury United Methodist Church, 6822 Grand Avenue
  • First United Methodist (Copper Top) Church, 230 E. Skyline Parkway

Those receiving masks are asked to remain in their vehicles.

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.

In the News...

The Duluth News Tribune did a story on Minnesota school nurses taking on the extra responsibility of contact tracing. Anyone who is considered a close contact with a student or staff member who has COVID-19 receives an email and a phone call.

“Being a nurse through a pandemic is not something I thought I would ever do,” Duluth Public Schools District Lead Nurse Crystal Diehl said.

Thank you, Duluth and all Northland School Nurses!

#Inspire709 #SchoolHeroes

Duluth News Tribune Article

Lester Park Tie Dye Day

Students and staff at Lester Park Elementary celebrated School Spirit Days with "Tie Dye Day." People put on their favorite tie dye clothing, snapped a picture, then shared the picture in a comment on the school's Facebook page.



Lowell World Kindness Day

Students celebrated World Kindness Day all week by noticing kind things others are doing. They could ask their teacher for a kindness ticket and write down what they noticed their classmate (or staff member) doing. They posted their tickets on a bulletin board.

#WorldKindnessDay #BeKindTodayAndEveryday #LowellLions



Lincoln Park MS Artist of the Week

Check out this beautiful watercolor painting by Lincoln Park MS Artist of the Week Olivia C.! Olivia's creation was inspired after learning about Duluth artist Cheng-Khee Chee. Students learned several unique watercolor techniques through this lesson. Congratulations, Olivia!

#Inspire709 #Beautiful


Myers-Wilkins Attendance Heroes

Here are a few 98% Attendance Heroes from Myers-Wilkins Elementary. They have mastered the blending of learning at home and in person. Way to go Wolfpack! We're excited to celebrate your efforts.

#AttendingisTrending #WearetheWolfpack #Inspire709


And from Laura MacArthur Elementary...

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