Weekly Update

ISD 709 News August 20, 2021

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families,

Whether it is national news, social media or talk between friends and family, “to mask or not to mask” is definitely the question. I even got into a great conversation about school mask wearing policies while getting my oil changed this week!

To be honest, I don’t like wearing a mask. Like many glasses wearers, I have a choice of not seeing with my glasses off or not seeing with my glasses fogged up. They are easy to forget, and with a bit of asthma, coming up several flights of stairs at our schools or at our district office on a muggy smoggy day with a mask on isn’t much fun either. I also know that for many, there are strong sentiments that this is a matter of people’s individual rights and freedoms. I respect the variety of perspectives of the many students, families and staff that we serve.

With all this said, as superintendent, I have the responsibility of ensuring high quality learning and student and staff safety for all. I heard very strongly from our students, families and staff that our students NEEDED in-person instruction. It is our intention to do everything possible to ensure that we can safely have all students in-person, five days a week

I have degrees in Spanish and English, as well as my training in educational leadership and curriculum. I might be able to lead a school, teach English language learners, or write a poem in Spanish, but I am not a virologist, nor do I have a degree in public health. So, when I have to bring forward a decision on masking this next week, I seek the advice of people who are the experts in those fields.

At this time, the Center for Disease Control recommends mask wearing in schools. The American Association of Pediatricians recommends mask wearing in schools. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends mask wearing in schools. The Minnesota Medical Association recommends mask wearing in schools, The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians recommends mask wearing in schools. The Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Pediatricians recommends mask wearing in school. The St. Louis County Department of Health recommends indoor mask wearing.

With each of these entities recommending mask wearing, I, too, believe that we need to start the year wearing masks. Not because we want to, but because we need to ensure that our students are returning to school and able to stay there.

With deep respect and appreciation,

John Magas

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


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Happy New Year!

  • School starts September 7, 2021 for Grades 1 - 12

  • Kindergarteners begin school September 9, 2021

>>General 2021-22 Back to School information is being posted at ISD709.org/BackToSchool

>>School specific information will begin coming from your school from mid to late August.

>>Families new to Duluth Public Schools, who have not yet enrolled their child, are encouraged to do so as soon as possible at ISD709.org/Enroll

#Inspire709 #NewSchoolYear

Families, if you haven't already done so, please complete the following forms to help schools get ready for the new school year. Thank you in advance for providing this information, it will help school staff prepare to welcome and serve students in September.

1. 2021-22 Blended Learning 1 to 1 Agreement: Required for All Families Grades K-12. More about Blended Learning.

Click here to fill out the Blended Learning form.

2. MN Department of Education Digital Survey: For the purpose of improving educational outcomes and digital access for public school students across the state.

Click here to take the MDE survey.

3. Application for Educational Benefits Form: Families may qualify for reduced school activity fees, benefits and other discounts - and help provide important state and federal funds for Duluth's schools.

Click here to fill out the application.

Again, thank you for taking time to complete these forms and best wishes for a great school year!

Safe Learning Plan Update August 24

The Safe Learning Plan provides current guidance for staff, programs, and outside organizations using ISD 709 sites during the 2021-22 School year.

The document will be updated and plans shared Tuesday August 24 related to the start of the school year, including mask wearing and other COVID safety protocols.

We need to do all that we can to ensure in-person learning for all students this school year. None of us are excited to return to mask wearing but we know it’s an effective tool for slowing COVID transmission, especially as the Delta variant continues to rise dramatically across the country and in Minnesota.

In addition to mask wearing we strongly encourage people 12 years and older to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is one of the best things we can do to prevent getting or spreading COVID, to keep the local rates down and ensure safe in-person learning this school year.

If you have yet to be vaccinated, we again encourage you to do so.

  • Information on Saint Louis County vaccine clinics can be found here.
  • The State of Minnesota’s vaccine locator can be found here.
  • The State of Minnesota is also offering $100 incentives to get vaccinated – more information on that can be found here. August 22 deadline!
  • See below for Essentia Vaccination Clinics at Denfeld and Duluth East High Schools.
  • Additionally, most medical providers and local drug stores have vaccinations available.

#MaskUp #RollUpYourSleevesMN

Subject to change based on future state, federal and local guidance.


Denfeld and Duluth East High Schools are pleased to partner with Essentia Health to provide COVID vaccine clinics, offering the first shot of the Pfizer COVID 19 Vaccine to all people age 12 and older.

  • Pre-registration is required.
  • A signed minor consent form must be filled out in advance for all students under 18 if the parent/guardian will not be present.
  • In addition to this form, all those ages 12+ must have the general consent form completed.
  • Forms available via the signup links below.

This vaccine clinic is sponsored by Essentia Health. Personal information collected will be shared with Essentia Health for the purpose of providing direct medical care.

August 25, Duluth East High School - Jump Start

Ages 12 and Older Signup for Duluth East HS August 25

September 1, Denfeld High School - Hunter Kickoff

Ages 12 and Older Signup for Denfeld HS September 1

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Blended Learning Initiative

Information regarding our Blended Learning Initiative is at ISD709.org/Blended Learning.

Blended learning enhances in-person learning by providing each student educational access to digital and online resources.

  • In Duluth Public Schools, that access is provided through use of a district Chromebook, approved software and online services.
  • The district provides a Chromebook for each student in our schools.
  • Teachers and younger students (grades K - 5) use the Chromebooks to enhance in-person classroom activities.
  • Teachers and older students (grades 6 - 12) use the Chromebook for in-person classrooom activities and students may also take the devices home for schoolwork.

Blended learning is not distance learning. Educational activities are primarily in-person, utilizing the Chromebook to access information, create classroom work and projects and to collaborate with other students and with the teacher.

Blended Learning is more than "1 Device Per Student." Blended Learning is when each student has a device AND there is a clear vision for how teaching and learning will fundamentally evolve due to district-wide standardized digital access, and a strategic plan to build capacity and sustainability. This strategic plan must address two core areas of need, District Operations and Classroom Transformation.

From Anthony Bonds, Assistant Superintendent

Update: Stowe and Piedmont Principals:

Following a thorough and thoughtful hiring process, I’m pleased to announce the selection of Jessica Cook as Principal of Stowe Elementary School and Jennifer Bobbe as Principal of Piedmont Elementary.

Ms. Cook’s educational career includes Assistant Principal for the Lake Superior School District; Assistant Professor for the University of Wisconsin-Superior, teaching graduate courses in Educational Leadership; Special Education Resource Teacher for Duluth East High School and Special Education Teacher for the Cheyenne Mountain School District.
Ms. Cook holds Educational Administrative Licensure from Saint Mary’s University; a PhD in P-12 Studies Special Education & Differentiation from Capella University; a Master’s in Cross-Categorical Special Education Instruction from the University of Wisconsin - Superior; a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education (K-8), Science Instruction (5-8) from the University of Minnesota - Duluth and an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
She is a member of the School Superintendents Association (AASA); Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD); Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA); Minnesota Administrators for Special Education (MASE); Council for Exceptional Children and Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders, among others.

Ms. Bobbe’s educational career includes Assistant Principal for Willmar Senior High School; Achievement Coach for Northdale Middle School; Administrative Intern for Johnsville Elementary School, English/Reading Teacher for Anoka High School, Spring Lake Park High School, and Shakopee Junior High. She has experience leading diverse student populations and communicating with families; using data analysis and best practices to improve student learning and providing meaningful professional development for staff.

Ms. Bobbe holds a K-12 Principal Administrative Licensure from Hamline University; a Master’s in Education from the University of MN - Twin Cities; and a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of MN - Twin Cities.

Her professional activities include co-presenter with the Willmar ALC principal on responding to pandemic challenges as part of the Bold Leadership Series: Voices from the Field, Minnesota Regional Centers of Excellence and MDE; Culturally Responsive Teaching and Growth Mindset Professional Development Presenter; and member of the Standards-Based Instruction District Task Force in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, among others.

Many thanks to both selection committees for their time and effort in the selection process. Please help welcome and support Ms. Cook and Ms. Bobbe in their new positions.

Update: SRO Community Conversation

In September, we invite Duluth students, families, staff and public to engage in conversations exploring SRO effectiveness. Events are hosted by Marnita's Table, they are free and open to the public - RSVPs are requested.

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MN K-12 Tax Benefits for Families

From the MN Department of Revenue:

If you're buying school supplies for your children in kindergarten through 12th grade, you may qualify for one or both of these tax benefits:

  • K-12 Education Subtraction
  • K-12 Education Credit
Save your receipts because both benefits can help lower your taxes and may provide a larger refund when filing your Minnesota income tax return. Last year, more than 33,000 families received the K-12 Education Credit and saved an average of $250. Nearly 190,000 families received the K-12 Education Subtraction.

View the Flyer

Visit www.revenue.state.mn.us and enter K12 into the Search box or call 651-296-3781 or 1-800-652-9094.

Free Backpacks, School Supplies

CHUM Annual Backpack Distribution

Open to All Duluth School Children Grades K-12

August 24, 2021, 10AM – 2PM

Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC):

350 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802

*Backpacks will be given away in North Pioneer Hall, or in the Vista parking lot, across from the Irvin (Depending on COVID protocols)

*Backpacks are given on a first come first serve basis.

*Please be prepared to show identification for each student requesting a backpack: School ID or Social Security card or Medical Card or Birth Certificate

Questions? Scott Van Daele, CHUM Distributive Services Director Phone: (218) 727-2391 or Email: svandaele@chumduluth.org

Join Our Team!

Duluth Public Schools provide rewarding regular and substitute jobs in a variety of roles. Plus a robust benefit package to full-time employees and part-time employees who meet eligibility requirements. Please consider joining our team and share this information with people you know!

Current Job Openings

Questions? Email: noncerthr@isd709.org or call (218) 336-8722

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Team Spirit Day

Thank you, Judith McKeever, for the great Team Spirit Day Photos...we're all about teamwork!


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