ISD 709 News 12/23/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

Today is the last school day of 2020. While I don't think any of us are too sad to turn the page on the calendar, please take a moment to give yourself and those around you credit for a commendable effort in response to the pandemic and for successes realized during a challenging time.

There's some good news as the year ends. Limited vaccine distribution is underway in the Duluth area and our current, local COVID rates are at 100 and declining. We must remain prudent and continue to follow COVID safety protocols to ensure this trend continues - we're not out of the woods yet. As many of us are away for winter recess and some celebrate the holidays, please remember to practice social distance, wear a mask and consider the size of gatherings, especially if travelling outside of the area.

There are exciting things to look forward to in the New Year. We are moving towards opening our elementaries to in-person instruction, and resuming athletics practices and activities as well enhancing the quantity and quality of our synchronous and asynchronous instruction. I am confident that 2021 will look far different than 2020.

Heading into winter recess, I hope you'll have ample opportunity to take care of yourself, rest, renew, and find joy in these last few days of 2020.


John Magas

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


Elementary In-Person: Model Selection Form

Birth to Grade 5 Families, Please Complete the Model Selection Form By January 8

Governor Walz, the Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health have authorized elementary schools and early learning programs to operate an in-person learning model as long as they are able to implement all updated health and safety measures.

Starting on January 25, all elementary schools and early childhood programs of Duluth Public Schools will begin a return to full in-person learning.

Elementary In-Person FAQ

In order for the transition to in-person learning to be safe and successful for all, we need families to confirm what they plan to do. Please complete one form for each of the birth to grade 5 students in your household by Friday January 8. Updated student learning model selection is critical for thoughtful planning and preparation, and for getting students back into their classrooms while keeping everyone in our school community safe.


Additional Information:


Update: MN Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year

Please note, when the district returns to in-person learning for Birth to Grade 5 students, Tier 1 childcare will no longer be available to students in these grade levels. Please contact K.E.Y. Zone if you are in need of before or after school childcare options.

Important: Food Benefits for Families

From the MN Department of Education:

Students who qualify for free/reduced price lunch may be eligible for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to purchase food for days they are not in the school building.

  • To be considered, households must submit an application for free/reduced price meals for the 2020-21 school year or be approved for Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
  • Families who receive P-EBT benefits last summer are NOT automatically eligible; eligibility is based on the current school year.
  • Benefits may be retroactive to September 2020, depending on when eligibility for free or reduced price meals is determined.

To ensure you qualify for the most benefits, please submit your Free/Reduced price lunch application as soon as possible.


Bagged Meal Service Will Pause for Winter Break

Please note bagged meal service will pause during the winter break December 24 through January 1. Meal service will resume Monday January 4.

Details Online

FASTBridge Assessments Jan 4 - 13

FASTBridge Assessments Coming to 6th Grade!

Duluth Public Schools is focused on and committed to our students' learning, especially while weathering this incredibly challenging school year. As part of commitment to our students, we will begin incorporating FASTBridge assessments in math and reading. Math and literacy skills are foundational pieces of school learning and success.

Our 6th grade students will be taking two remotely administered assessments; one in the area of reading and one in the area of math. The assessments will be incorporated into students' Canvas modules during the instructional week of January 4-13.

Students will work through the assessment independently at home on an internet connected device. They will need headphones and a quiet work environment to work through the material independently.

Teachers will be analyzing the information collected to plan for continued support of each student, so it is important that the data accurately represents your child's abilities, needs, and strengths. Please do not assist your child with the assessed content.

Sources of Strength: Week 6


Spirituality is practiced in many ways, but at its core it is a driving force that gives us a sense of purpose and connection. Thankfulness is a profound way to practice Spirituality together no matter what our cultural heritage and/or spiritual tradition. Spirituality reminds us that we are connected to more than just ourselves. We can lift our spirits by practicing our faith traditions, experiencing prayer, mindfulness, and meditation, engaging in our cultural rituals, ceremonies, and customs, and by practicing gratitude. Spirituality will look different for all people.

Conversation starters for you at home:

  • Name three things you are grateful for this holiday season.

  • Where are spiritual places for you

  • What traditions, practices, culture or religion help you experience Spirituality

Activities for you to do at home:

  • Look at the night sky for 10 minutes; Watch the sunset

  • Keep a gratitude journal

  • Ask yourself: What makes my spirit soar?

Check out the checklist of activities to help continue to practice growing our strength of Spirituality


Online: Sources of Strength

Free Family, Parent Support From HDC

Join HDC and other community providers as they discuss taking care of children and caregivers through the COVID-19 pandemic. The seminars cover topics like support with distance learning, resilience and coping, child trauma, and prevention and warning sign of mental health and substance abuse.

All seminars are FREE, and no affiliation to HDC or previous assessment is needed to attend.

Classes will take place the second Tuesday of the month, January through April, from 6:00pm – 7:30pm.

To Register for Free: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/supporting-families-through-the-pandemic-tickets

Questions? contactus@hdchrc.org

Help Support School Funding!


Families, please fill out the Free/Reduced Price Lunch Application to help support millions in important school funding!

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

  • In addition to providing free meals for children, approved applications may also qualify students for discounted or free extra-curricular activity fees.
  • Students who qualify for free/reduced price lunch may be eligible for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to purchase food for days they are not in the school building.


It's easy and confidential, apply any time, 24/7.

Applications can also be downloaded and returned to your school building.

Questions about the application? Call 218-336-8707, we're happy to help.

Winter Break Resources

While school is out for winter break, the following resources are provided for families who may need assistance:

Emergency Resources:

  • Duluth Police Department: (218) 730-5400 (non-emergency line)
  • 911 for Emergencies
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • South St. Louis County: (218) 623-1800
  • MN Crisis Line: Text “MN” to 741741
  • Safe Haven (218) 728-6481 (Voice/TDD), 1-877-880-3094 (Toll-Free)
  • Mental Health 24-hour Crisis Line: 1-877-727-4747

Spirit of the Season

Hunters Bring Holiday Cheer

Students from the Denfeld High School Exec Board made cards and gift bags for area nursing home residents. Also, with Shane Erickson’s help, these student leaders adopted a Denfeld family, and had fun shopping for, wrapping, and delivering the gifts.

#Inspire709 #spiritoftheseason #DenfeldStrong


Denfeld Hockey Team Gives Back to Community

Edgewood Hermantown posted these words and the included photo on its Facebook page this week:

"A BIG Thank You to the DHS Hockey Boosters (Denfeld High School Hockey Team) for bringing cards and cookies for our Assisted Living residents today! They had wanted to do a scrimmage in one of our parking lots for the residents to see, but the pandemic has changed the rules of fun. But... lucky for all of us, winter comes every year to Duluth so there will be plenty more opportunities!"



Elementary Art Teachers Share Greeting For Students

They hear teacher voices in the SeeSaw lessons but don't always see faces. Elementary art teachers took time to create a video and to add to the Choice Board activity.

View the Video

Sounds of the Season...

Duluth East Barbershop Quartet

Calling themselves the Acalads, a Duluth East HS barbershop quartet singing the holiday classic Let it Snow.

View the Video

Denfeld Drum Line

The first Christmas City of the North Virtual Parade! Check out the original groove created by the group's senior xylophonist. Great job!

View the Video

Duluth East Choralaires

Duluth East Choralaires present "Carol of the Bells," the students sound as beautiful virtually as they do in person.

View the Video

Denfeld Jazz Band

The Denfeld High School Jazz Band created this arrangement of "Up on the Housetop" for the Christmas City of the North Virtual Parade, have a listen.

View the Video

Duluth East Jazz Ensemble

Duluth East HS Jazz Ensemble performance of "White Christmas," created by Greyhound Senior Grent Ellis Canete. He had to mix 18 different instrumental parts!

View the Video

Lester Park Giving Tree Project

Lester Park Elementary's 18th Annual Giving Tree Project

This project began with a boy’s desire to give back to the nurses and doctors who helped save his little brother’s life after he was severely burned. The boy decided to give decorated trees to patients who may have to spend the holidays away from home. Lester Park Elementary adopted the idea as a Service Learning project.

This year, because of the pandemic, students were invited to make ornaments at home to decorate the trees. Many thanks to all from Lester Park who helped: families and Tier 1 Child Care for making ornaments and donating gifts; school staff for ensuring ornaments were made; paraprofessionals for helping put the ornaments on the trees; Principal Sue Lehna for helping with delivery. A special thank you to Marshall Hardware for donating the trees. We're surrounded by a generous community of people who are willing to go the extra mile to help those in need.



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