ISD 709 News 11/20/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

As we approach the end of our transition week for elementary moving to full distance learning, I want to thank each of you who had a part in this - students, teachers, parents, staff and administrators. Change is never easy, especially under pressure, and even more so when everyone is already exhausted from the many new demands of the pandemic.

Even as our staff makes this transition, we are also working hard behind the scenes to improve our current model, and to prepare for more face-to-face instruction when we can safely do so.

I know that this transition, in addition to the pause for athletics and activities, is something that no one, myself very much included, wants to undertake. With Governor Walz announcing new restrictions including a four week pause on athletics and in-person activities and our local COVID-19 rates nearly doubling from 54.3 last week to 105 this week it seems the direction is prudent.

As we plan for next week, some of our staff and families are considering traveling. Please remember that both the CDC and state of Minnesota are reminding us that, if we do travel, we need to take extra precautions with social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have." Someone texted me this as I wrote the last paragraph. Sometimes you are given the very advice that you need in the moment you need it.

Duluth is strong. Our families are passionate about providing what our children need. Our staff work extremely hard to provide for students in the best way we can. I know that, despite the hardships, we will persevere and come out stronger as a community and district.

The pandemic has made many truths about education even more clear - the importance of relationships, the power and challenge of making learning engaging, and the reality that our systems and structures do not serve all students and families equitably. What is it that we want to become as we re-assemble our educational systems? Now, as well as when we emerge from this time, it will be important to consider these truths and lessons very carefully.

No matter what our beliefs, I am asking all of us to come together for the common cause of reducing risk and spread. If we take a portion of the energy that we are spending on being frustrated about how things are and put it towards lifting together, towards changing our practices, it will make a significant difference. With potential vaccines on a not too distant horizon, we have to call upon our collective strength to be vigilant over these next weeks. I can guarantee two things: this will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I am very thankful for the strength of our community, as well as your efforts.

John Magas

If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email: ReturnToLearn@ISD709.org

Important 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.

Governor Orders 4-Week Pause

On Wednesday November 18, Governor Walz announced Executive Order 20-99, which dials back certain activities to slow the spread of COVID-19. Dial Back, Minnesota is a four-week pause of most social activities, in-person dining, organized Sports (Adult and Youth) and indoor fitness activity in group settings. The pause runs Nov. 20 at 11:59 p.m. to Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m.

For more information and guidance, visit Stay Safe MN.

NEW! 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

IMPORTANT: We Need Your Help

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.

District Expands Meal Bus Hubs

The Duluth School District added many bus hubs to free meal distribution sites beginning Thursday November 19.

Questions? Please contact ISD 709 Child Nutrition @ 218-336-8707.

December 15 is the last day to have your Free/Reduced Lunch application support important school funding for next year. Please click here to complete the application.

Sources of Strength - Week 2

Positive friends are so important as a source of strength, especially as we move into more restrictive modes of learning and activities. We are hardwired to be connected and feel a sense of belonging. Most often that need is met through friends and healthy relationships. Our positive friends lift us up, make us laugh, are honest with us and are there for us when we need them. The good news is that it is still possible to stay connected, even when we need to be apart.

Conversation starters at home:

  • Think about an unlikely friendship, what made it unique and special?

  • Tell a story of a time a friend was honest with you and it helped.

  • How have you shown up as a positive friend?

Activities for students:

  • Facetime with a friend at least once a day

  • Create a friend playlist together and have a virtual dance party

  • Have a virtual Friendsgiving

Additional activities to do with friends:

Online: Sources of Strength


Attendance is crucial for students to stay current, continue growing, and for their mental health. As we continue to navigate Distance Learning as educators and families, we need to remember the importance of daily attendance. Attendance has a correlation to all components of well being (physical, emotional, mental) and can be a predictor to many facets of a successful life. ISD709 has seen the need for continued work on attendance and engagement. This started with the creation of the Council on Improved ISD709 Attendance that includes representatives from 15 sites and other programs.

Tasks ongoing or completed:

  • Creating uniform and systemic changes to attendance policy and procedures district wide

  • Creation of Attendance Teams at all sites or site leadership teams reviewing attendance data with fidelity

  • Creation of a District umbrella slogan of: #AttendingIsTrending

  • Review of barriers and other factors contributing to lower attendance

  • Sub-Committees on Community Engagement & Attendance Letters

This work will continue to evolve and will include data from students and families for guidance and steering.

Here are some important reminders in regards to Attendance:

  • Parents/guardians and students to mark student attendance by 4:00 PM each day

Students will be credited for positive attendance for a day(s) when:

  • When a student/family checks attendance on IC each day OR

  • When a student has demonstrated activity on their SeeSaw/Canvas activity calendar that is aligned to assignment date, OR

  • Connection made with a staff member (i.e. by phone, email, text, google meet), OR

Weekend work will be credited for the date/days where work was assigned and completed. Verification of that work completion must be made by teacher, clerical, administration or authorized staff.

COVID Ref Safety Videos

Be a team player! Follow COVID guidelines and help the COVID Ref get back to reffing games, not the pandemic. Creative COVID campaign videos, thank you, St. Louis County!

Share a video.
Spread the word.
Don’t spread the virus.

View the Videos: www.covidref.com

#Inspire709 #WeCanDoThis

November Board Recognition

Amy Westbrook, MPH, Public Health Division Director and Sarah Miller RN, PHN received recognition from the Duluth School Board in November. They’re from St. Louis County Public Health & Human Services and have become essential members of our response team as our school district navigates the COVID 19 pandemic.

They work in partnership with COVID Lead Crystal Diehl and consult with Superintendent John Magas. They attend meetings to provide public health information to staff and families and assist in making tough decisions under often challenging conditions. They continue to closely monitor the situation and review information as it comes from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health and help our schools understand and incorporate that information into what we do.

#Inspire709 #CommunityPartners

CSS Tutoring Support

Duluth Public Schools is entering into an agreement with the College of Saint Scholastica (CSS) to provide academic tutoring supports for our students that are participating in Distance or Hybrid Learning models.

CSS tutors will begin providing supports within the next couple of weeks.

Parents must give permission for students to access these supports. Please complete the following form to indicate your interest in having your child participate to receive tutoring supports. Please include contact information so a tutor can reach out to you once the program is initiated.

Request Tutoring Support


From the Minnesota Department of Education:

American Education Week is a time to celebrate our schools. This year especially, we are grateful for the educators and school professionals who have risen to meet the challenges presented by the pandemic.

In the News...

Jen Larva, Curriculum Director, and Kelly Durick Eder, Board Member and CSS Faculty, provided interviews with local news media and shared information about the partnership with CSS to provide online tutoring. Many thanks to CSS for their partnership and support!

Learn More: https://bit.ly/38WtDgO

#Inspire709 #CommunityPartners



Advocating for Homeless Families, Students

State wide homeless liaisons met with MN Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker this month to discuss the challenges they are seeing with identifying families and youth during this time.

Katie Giizhiganangikwe Danielson, MSW, LGSW, ISD 709 Families in Transition Coordinator, was able to speak directly to the Commissioner about some of the unique issues that the Duluth school district has such as the lack of housing and shelter availability, school engagement, livable wages and our high mobility rate.


A Generous Heart

As cold, snowy weather hits the Northland, Carolyn Zanko knit 141 sets of mittens, numerous hats and created quilts for donation to our schools with the greatest need. Thank you Ms. Zanko, for your generosity!


PAWsome Panthers

These Piedmont Panthers were recognized for modeling exemplary Panther Pride core values, WORK-RESPECT-BELONG. They include being a kind and helpful friend to others, preparedness in and out of school, ready to learn each and everyday; a scholar who is ready and in the Game.



Fall In Love With Reading

The American Indian Parent Advisory Committee held a reading event in the month of October, encouraging students to read a book each week. Students were gifted on a weekly basis and at the end all who participated were entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire.
Students were honored on a bulletin board at Historic Old Central High School, outside the Office of American Indian Education.


Duluth American Indian Education Office

Christmas City of the North Parade - Denfeld, Duluth East

Duluth's 62nd annual Christmas City of the North parade is closed to in-person spectators this year. Floats will be live, high schools bands and dance groups are pre-recorded with their performances aired throughout the parade.

The Duluth East Music Department's "Choralaires", "Sterling Strings" and "Jazz Band", along with the Denfeld Bands had a successful recording session with the KBJR6 camera crew on stage and under the lights!

Catch our talented Denfeld and Duluth East student performances during the parade broadcast, scheduled for 6:30PM Friday November 20, on KBJR-TV6.

More Information

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