ISD 709 News 12/4/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

This week, a package arrived for me here at the district office. I was surprised to see that it was a “survival package” from my mom, who lives in Michigan. Despite being nearly 80 and suffering from Parkinsons and other ailments, she is always thinking of others.

Opening the box, I found a couple of kitchen items, a cheese grater, some dried oregano from her garden and a Tupperware container with a couple of brownies. With my first bite, I was transported by flavors of pure cocoa, sugar and butter, made from my Grandma Mildred’s recipe.

Mildred had lived through her own pandemic, the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed an estimated 675,000 Americans. As an 11 year old, I wondered what her experience had been like as she faced those hardships, many that we are facing now.

She made it through, however. By the summer of 1919, the pandemic came to an end.

She became an elementary teacher in the early 1930s. At that time, as a female teacher, she needed to be “secretly married” during her workweek, but headed to her home and husband in Kalamazoo on the weekends. She went on to have kids, travel through the Southwest, making Super-8 movies of the Grand Canyon that inspired my love of travel. And, she came up with the best brownie recipe the world has ever known!

Why am I sharing this? Because it is important to remember a few things:

  1. We will get through this challenge together. We have and will have losses, suffering, and struggles, but brighter times will also come.

  2. We need to take time to check in on one another.

  3. We have to remember to be thankful for small moments of joy.

  4. There will be brownies.

I hope that each of you are able to enjoy a few moments of joy each day, that may even seem a bit richer despite the challenges. (And… if you really need it…it turns out that the magic recipe of my youth was on the side of the chocolate syrup can the whole time.)


John Magas

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

Sources of Strength - Week 4

Healthy Activities

When we feel stressed, Healthy Activities can lift our mood and help us gain clarity and unwind. Healthy Activities can be social, physical, and/or emotional. Stress often does not go away on its own. We have to actively engage in Healthy Activities to lower our stress response. Create a household bucket list of activities you can do together. These might be new skills, favorite pastimes or ideas for bringing calm into your home and in your life.

Conversation starters for you at home:

  • What healthy activities help you feel joy?

  • What are things you do to help you energize?

  • Share a story of how you used an activity to cope with a difficult situation.

Activities for students to do at home:

  • Watch the Panda Cam at the National Zoo! Link below

  • Learn to do yoga.

  • Get outside and go for a walk or run.

Fun activities and links can be found here:

Healthy Activities

Online: Sources of Strength

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Deadline Dec 7: COVID Housing Assistance

If you need help with your housing bills, apply for the Housing Assistance Program by December 7. Learn more at http://211unitedway.org.

MDE Public Comment Through December 13

The Minnesota Department of Education will be revising data collection systems to allow public schools district and charter schools greater flexibility in reporting students’ gender identity, including the option to designate a gender other than male or female.

View the Gender Identity Data Collection and Reporting document to learn more. Minnesotans are invited to comment on the implementation process between November 30, 2020 and 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, December 13, 2020.

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.

The Help Desk will be able 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

Please Continue to Report Positive COVID Results

All staff and students need to continue to report positive COVID-19 results to the district even during distance learning and remote working. The Minnesota Department of Health requires that our school district report positive cases of COVID-19.

>>Students who test positive should report their result to their school health office.

>>Staff who test positive should report their result to reportcovid@isd709.org.

Thanks for your help and support as we address the pandemic.

MN Dept of Health: COVID Exposure Notifications

You can help protect your community & add your phone to the fight against COVID-19 today. It’s free. It’s anonymous. It helps slow the spread of the coronavirus in our communities. Visit covidawaremn.com for more.


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.

Community Partnership: Brave Art

Duluth Public Schools is continuing to partner with PAVSA this year and their Brave Art Initiative.

Do you know some students that love to express themselves through art? If so, we invite you to pass along this awesome opportunity for youth to share their Art with the community during the annual Brave Art event that's held every January.

What is Brave Art?

Brave Art is a free community art fair that is dedicated to raising awareness about resiliency through creativity and artistic expression. The event allows youth and other members of the community to create and submit a piece of artwork that shows what being brave means to them.

Ok, how do you participate?

Please have youth fill out this form

After that, Mel Alavar (the director of Brave Art) will follow up with the youth to give them some more information on how to submit their artwork and potentially have it featured in a storefront in the Twin Ports.

If you have any questions about the event, please reach out to Jacob.Laurent@ISD709.org

Climate Coordinator Duluth Public Schools - ISD 709 or Mel Alavar at alvar@pavsa.org.

Duluth East Student Achieves ACT Success

Congratulations, Haakon Pihlaja, Duluth East! Haakon achieved the highest possible score on the ACT exam, a 36. Nationwide, over 1.67 million students have taken the ACT this year and 5,579 scored a 36.



Duluth News Tribune Article

Denfeld Student Earns All-Player of the Year Honor

Keegan Chastey's season totals of 20 goals and 11 assists earned a second consecutive News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year honor, congratulations!

Duluth News Tribune Article

#Inspire709 #HunterPride


Virtual Field Trip

Duluth Public Schools' art education students had an opportunity to take part in a fourth Virtual Field Trip in November. Printmaker Tyler Green treated students to a tour of Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis. Students watched the design, inking and printmaking process, and interacted with other artists working in the facility. They experienced ideas and themes of a variety of printmakers in Highpoint's gallery.



Congdon Park and Pick Library Books

The school had a great turnout, students enjoyed choosing library books at school, all grades welcome. Participants were asked to:
  • Come in one family at a time
  • Wear a mask
  • Sanitize hands
  • Return books
  • Choose new books
  • Check out with Mrs. Miller



KEY Zone and Tier 1 Childcare, Indoors & Outdoors

Photos from the first week at Lowell Tier 1 childcare and KEY Zone. The children have done well getting on their Google meets, working on Seesaw, making crafts, having fun outside, and sledding.


Learn More About KEY Zone


What are Duluth ECFE teachers and staff thankful for? Getting to continue classes with families. It might be different, but we're happy to connect. What are YOU thankful for?
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