ISD 709 News 12/17/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

With winter officially beginning on Monday, it’s good to have something to warm the heart. We're not “out of the woods” yet, but local COVID numbers have dropped for the past two weeks and are forecasted for another decline in the coming week. We also have limited vaccines beginning to arrive for distribution in the area. Finally, there are new conversations on how we can get our students back to school as soon as safely possible.

Reopening our schools for in-person teaching and learning is what we’ve looked forward to since our closure last spring. Ensuring health, safety and wellness of our students, staff, and community is always of utmost importance. As I have often stated, the biggest challenge of the year has been that these two goals have been at odds since the beginning of the pandemic.

As you can read about further below, Governor Walz issued extensive new guidance prioritizing in-person learning for our youngest learners. As we continue to explore planning, it is vital that we clearly communicate the “what, why and how” of what this will look like given our needs.

In consultation throughout the day with state and local officials and fellow district leaders, as well as a meeting with the district advisory committee, there has been excitement about this direction. There has also been general consensus that certain aspects of the new guidance need additional interpretation, clarification and planning. As this process continues, we will keep you informed of proposed changes and provide additional information for you prior to break.

I look forward to sharing more soon and appreciate your continued input and support. In the meantime, I hope you’re able to enjoy all the good things this season brings and that you take a moment to rest, reflect and care for yourself.


John Magas

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


Governor Walz Prioritizes In-Person for Elementary Students

On Thursday, Governor Tim Walz announced updates to Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 20-21 School Year that help prioritize and support in-person learning for elementary students.

District and school administrators will review the new guidelines and begin to incorporate them into our planning. We’ll work to share preliminary plans with staff and families in the coming days prior to winter break next week.

Plans will include a return to at least elementary in-person hybrid in mid to late January. Families could continue to choose all distance learning for their elementary students if they wish.

The district still plans for distance learning for middle and high school students to continue through January 21 with the second semester under review.

One new mitigation strategy announced by the state today is that all public schools providing in-person or hybrid learning must offer on-site COVID testing to all staff that interact with students. The state said it will provide training and saliva test kits so that schools can conduct this testing.

The Governor also announced that youth sports teams will be able to start practicing on January 4, but they will not be able to play games yet. We will continue to follow the Governor’s directives regarding in-person athletics and activities.

We are partnering with the city and neighboring districts and communities to encourage preventative measures, including mask wearing and social distancing. These strategies are making a positive difference. We all want our students back in school safely as soon as possible and our collective efforts can help make that a reality.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the pandemic together.

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.

Family, Student Survey Results Influence Engagement Strategies

Many thanks to families and students who participated in recent surveys! Results were reviewed by principals and district leaders and are being used to improve what we do.

Each principal is working with their site team to go deeper into the data and develop actionable strategies. District office administration will continue to review data and develop actionable strategies to increase engagement efforts.
School Engagement Examples:

District Engagement Examples:

  • Attendance teams created at each school to review data and make strategy recommendations

  • Attendance practices were established for consistency

  • Attendance Campaign-- #attendingistrending to promote checking in

  • Postcards created for staff to send to students.

  • Teachers received professional development to increase their virtual instructional engagement.

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

NEW! Help Desk For Students, Families

Duluth Public Schools families and students have access to Help Desk support during digital learning. Help Desk Hotline 218-336-8732 or

Start a Help Desk Ticket

The Help Desk is available 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

Duluth School Board Members Advocate for Public Education

Chairperson Jill Lofald and Members Alanna Oswald and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp advocated for public education at the virtual MSBA Delegate Assembly this month.

The Delegate Assembly – comprised of more than 140 public school board member Delegates from across the state – discussed and voted on 11 legislative resolutions submitted by school boards and individual school board members. Resolutions that received a majority vote become the basis for MSBA staff lobbying efforts on behalf of all public school board members in the state.

  • One of the approved resolutions will urge the Minnesota Legislature to stabilize school districts’ funding for one year due to the uncertainty and fluctuations of student enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year. This resolution would allow districts to use the greater of pupil counts from October 1, 2019, or October 1, 2020, for the current school year. Without financial stability, school districts will be unable to safely and effectively educate their students.
  • Another resolution approved by the Delegate Assembly this year would urge the Legislature to stabilize school districts by allowing districts to use the greater free and reduced-price lunch count for calculating compensatory revenue for fiscal year 2022.

The MSBA’s mission is to advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.

HELP SUPPORT SCHOOL FUNDING! State Extends Deadline to Jan 4


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.


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

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

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

State Recognition for Duluth Pyramid Model Innovation Team

The Duluth Pyramid Model Innovation Team received recognition from Governor Tim Walz for excellent service to the state of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Education, congratulations! The Duluth Team includes representation from preschool, ECSE and has recently added a parent.

Through the Centers of Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities Duluth applied to be a Pyramid Model site in the spring of 2015. The model emphasizes building positive relationships with children and families, creating supportive environments, intentionally teaching social skills and individualizing interventions when needed. Professional development is provided to enhance the knowledge and skills of classroom teachers, ECSE staff and paraprofessionals in meeting the social and emotional needs of young children in inclusive environments.


The 12 Days of SeeSaw Video

Staff from Stowe Elementary, getting creative and sharing positive messages with a fun music video called "The 12 Days of Seesaw!"

Thank you, Brenda VanDell, for sharing the link.

Watch the Video



Peanut Butter Blossoms

In a message to her Family & Consumer Science teacher, Chef Glenn D'Amour, Annika said, "I made the Peanut Butter Blossom cookies with my mom, and they were so much fun to make! They tasted delicious! I really enjoy doing the recipes you give me. They are so much fun to do."

"There are positives to distance learning. Annika will remember making those cookies with mom for years to come. The only negative is, I don't get to taste them," said Chef D'Amour.

#Inspire709 #YUM


Distance Learning Time at Congdon Park

Everyone—kids, parents, teachers, staff, administrators— is learning so much about making connections and being flexible. Students, teachers and staff will be together again soon, when it’s safe to do so. Can’t wait!



Follow Us For ISD 709 School News: