ISD 709 News 1/29/21

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families-

Our first week of elementary in-person and secondary synchronous learning was very successful! We know that our staff, students, and families felt a mix of excitement and concern as the week began. I am both proud and impressed with the collaboration and hard work that allowed these opportunities to take place. We are also thankful for our educators who are supporting students who are continuing with distance learning.

Thank you, as well, to our families for preparing learners for safety expectations and to our students for their resilience and flexibility as we all learn to teach and grow in new and different ways.

We are also grateful to our community, as we have continued to reduce our COVID case rates week after week, thanks to everyone's vigilance and safety practices. We must continue to work together to minimize the risk of transmission. This is crucial to us moving forward with more in-person opportunities.

We’re working with our secondary leaders to update structures and plans for providing in-person middle and high school opportunities, based in part on what we’ve learned from our experiences with elementary hybrid and from other school districts. It’s vital that we continue collaboration with our teachers and other staff members, as well as the District Advisory Committee, to ensure that we are engaging stakeholders in the process. I am confident that the product we share will be the best possible plan to serve the needs of each learner.


John Magas

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


Thank You, Duluth Paraprofessionals

Governor Walz has proclaimed January 25-29, 2021 Paraprofessional Recognition Week. There are over 20,000 paraprofessionals in Minnesota working hard every day to make sure every child has the education they need to succeed in school and life. Paraprofessionals provide essential, supportive services to students and their families, especially during the pandemic

We appreciate everything you do everyday, many thanks.


Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month pays tribute to and celebrates the achievements and vital role of Black Americans throughout United States history. To celebrate Black History Month in February and throughout the year, Duluth Public Schools Office of Education Equity created a Google Classroom. Teachers, staff, students and families are invited to join, learn from and utilize the various learning activities.

Many thanks to Naawakwe aka William Howes, Office of Education Equity Coordinator, and Calvin Harris, Integration Specialist for this resource.

View the Black History Month Google Classroom

Elementary In-Person

This week elementary schools welcomed PreK-2 students who are taking part in in-person learning. Grades 3 to 5 will begin February 8.

It's a pleasure to see children in our schools and also a great responsibility. Principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, facilities, cafeteria, transportation, clerical staff, district leaders and many others have been working hard to prepare for this day, as have families.

We also appreciate the work of our distance learning teachers as they continue to support families who are choosing to keep their children home during the pandemic.

Many thanks to all as we move forward.



More About Elementary In-Person

Update: Middle & High School In-Person Planning

As would be expected, we’re receiving questions about our middle and high schools and when we might be in a position to return to in-person learning, be it hybrid or full in-person. As you know from frequent board meeting updates, this is something we have been actively planning for many months and plan to share more information about in the near future.

  • In December, upon release of the Governor’s guidance on returning to in-person instruction, we contacted the Minnesota Department of Health to schedule our mandatory consultation session on secondary learning models.
  • At our meeting on January 4, we requested permission and guidance for a timeframe that would allow us to open in hybrid or in-person instruction for our secondary schools. We were told that we would need to wait and continue to monitor the situation, including the post holiday local COVID rates.
  • As local COVID numbers continued to decrease, we set another consultation meeting for this week. We’re also working with our middle and high school leaders and will be communicating in the near future our next steps. It is important to give our students, staff, and families updates as we continue to move forward together.

Thank you for your continued support as we address the challenges of the pandemic.


  • SCREEN: Elementary families, please remember to screen your children or yourself daily for any symptoms before coming to school. Keep children home or stay home if there are any symptoms found per the MDH COVID Decision Tree.

  • REPORT: Please continue to report to your child’s school any COVID-19 symptoms, test results or quarantine status for your child. We track this information for attendance and follow the Decision Tree guidelines for when children may return to school.

  • For students experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms: Your student will be required to stay home from school for 10 days following the start of COVID-19 like symptoms unless documentation is given to your child's health office showing a negative COVID-19 test and/or a note from a health care provider stating that the student with symptoms has another illness that is not COVID-19 (e.g. an ear infection, a sinus infection, etc).

  • For siblings and household member of student experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms: Siblings and household members who attend or work at school will also have to stay home until negative COVID-19 test result or an alternative diagnosis is received. A longer quarantine for siblings and household members may be required if documentation of a negative COVID-19 test or alternative diagnosis is not received by your school health office.

Family Pandemic Food Support P-EBT

Information from the State of Minnesota:

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.

  • Families who receive P-EBT benefits last summer are NOT automatically eligible; eligibility is based on the current school year.

How can families prepare for 2020-2021 P-EBT?

There will not be an application process for 2020-2021 P-EBT benefits; eligible families will be issued benefits automatically.

  • To receive benefits, your child must be enrolled in SNAP, the Minnesota Family Investment Program, or free or reduced-price school meals. Benefit amounts will be based on the time periods in which your child attended school through a distance- or hybrid-learning model. Your family’s eligibility for the 2020-2021 P-EBT program may be different from your eligibility for the 2019-2020 P-EBT program. While the state awaits USDA approval, there are steps you can take to ensure that the P-EBT process is as smooth as possible for your family.
  • If your child does not receive MFIP or SNAP and is not enrolled in free or reduced-price meals, but you think they may qualify for free or reduced-price meals, submit an Application for Educational Benefits through your child’s school as soon as possible. If you have questions about the application, contact your child's school.
Frequently Asked Questions:
  • If you did not receive a 2019-2020 P-EBT card but were notified that you were eligible, please complete the 2019-2020 P-EBT Help Form.
  • If you are having a problem using a 2019-2020 P-EBT card, please contact EBT Edge by calling 888-997-2227 or visiting www.ebtEDGE.com.
  • If EBT Edge is unable to resolve problems with your 2019-2020 P-EBT card, such as address changes or date of birth questions, please complete the 2019-2020 P-EBT Help Form.


American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) Artists Respond to COVID

Resources include printable copies of coloring pages and informative posters designed by AICHO-affiliated artists.

"AICHO honors the resiliency of Native American people by strengthening communities and centering Indigenous values in all aspects of our work; we provide housing and supportive services while also managing arts, cultural, and food sovereignty initiatives in Duluth, MN."

Downloadable Materials

CSS Tutoring Now Available

Free tutoring services are now available for students participating in distance learning through partnership with the College of St. Scholastica!

Here is a video tutorial on how to sign up for a tutor.

Here is the link to book a tutor.

Questions? Please contact the College of St. Scholastica.

Upcoming: Committee of The Whole Topics

At next week's Committee of the Whole, the Duluth School Board will receive informational presentations on two topics associated with future planning projects.

The remote meeting is scheduled for Tuesday February 2, 4:30PM and can be viewed here.

Blended Learning Update

Through CARES Act funds, our district purchased thousands of Chromebooks for student use during distance learning, enough for each student to have a device and to build blended learning into our curriculum. When approached in a holistic way, blended learning has the potential to greatly enhance teaching and learning and improve student outcomes. This initiative will require input from teachers, principals, staff, students, families, community.

Strategic Planning Update

Our school district is in the beginning stages of working to create a five-year strategic plan for Duluth Public Schools. This project will require input from teachers, principals, staff, students, families, community.

We're Hiring!

As we look forward to students returning in-person, we're seeking to add to our roster of talented substitute staff. Substitutes make it possible for our students to continue learning in the classroom, they make a positive difference!

Follow the link to apply!

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District Spelling Bee Success

The district spelling bee looked VERY different this year. Congratulations to all participants, as well as the winners who will be continuing on to participate in the (remote) regional spelling bee on February 4:

Grades 5 & 6

Hayley Dunker (Lincoln Park Middle School), co-champion

Lyla Ronkainen (Ordean East Middle School), co-champion

Yupeng Chen (Congdon Elementary), third place

Grades 7 & 8

Maxwell Harbson (Ordean East Middle School), co-champion

Madeline Singer (Ordean East Middle School), co-champion

Marielle Johnson (Ordean East Middle School), third place


Duluth East Student Earns AAA Recognition

Crystal Kaczmarcyk, Duluth East High School, was selected to represent Region 7AA in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Academics, Athletics and Arts Award Program, congratulations! Among many activities, Crystal participates in Orchestra, Sterling Strings and serves as student vice president of the Orchestra program. She is a member of the Cross Country, Nordic Ski and Track teams and has earned an All-State Academic Award. Academically, Crystal maintains a 4.0 grade point average.



Denfeld DNA Robotics Team Gears Up for Competition

The 2021 build season is proving eventful and productive!

  • DNA's game design team is working hard to finalize the theme and storyline for the FIRST Robotics Game Design Challenge.
  • Team members are creating field pieces that are easily transportable and buildable.
  • The programming sub team discussed the benefits of using joysticks versus a keyboard and how they can use that to their advantage in the Skills Challenge.
  • The awards sub team continues to make significant progress on the FIRST Chairman’s Award, and surpassed their weekly Chairman’s goals.
  • This week presentation sub teams formed to tackle various virtual presentations.

Check out DNA's social media sites and stay tuned for updates:

Facebook: Denfeld Nation Automation 4009

Website: https://denfeldrobotics4009.org

Instagram: dna4009

Twitter: @dna_robotics

Duluth East One Act Play

Good luck to this year's virtual One Act team at subsections. In a year that's been different and challenging these actors make the new normal look pretty amazing! The play will be presented virtually to the judges.

#Inspire709 #GoHounds


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