ISD 709 News 10/30/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

As you know, we are currently in an elementary hybrid/secondary distance learning with targeted supports model. Before school started, we shared that we would remain in this model through the first quarter of the school year, which ends on November 6.

Given the ongoing rise over time in local, state and national rates, the current learning model will extend through the end of December. I know that all of us long for a return to normal. We all look forward to a return to full face-to face learning when our situation improves and when we can safely do so.

The district remains prepared to move into all distance learning and pause athletics and extracurricular activities if deemed necessary by state and county health and education officials, but we remain hopeful that, as a community, we can avoid this.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education jointly shared on Thursday afternoon that, in addition to county and local COVID rates, districts should also consider rates of infection spread within schools, as well as within athletics and activities. This change was made because, in general, schools are doing better with containing spread than the communities at large. We sincerely thank our students, families, staff and administration for their hard work in keeping our viral spread low and, thus, people safe.

At this time, Duluth Public Schools will be continuing targeted supports for students at the secondary level as well as athletics and activities. This decision was made after I met with a team of Minnesota Department of Health and St. Louis County Department of Health officials to receive guidance on this decision.

We are working with our secondary principals and schools so that we would be prepared for more in-person learning if county and local COVID numbers drop and stay low over time. Although we are engaging in planning for schools to be ready to bring more students back in person, a brief transition period would be required, as well as the preparations that we are working on now.

Thank you for your patience and support as we work together for our students.

John Magas

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


Rising COVID Rates

Superintendent John Magas joined Mayor Emily Larson and local health organizations for a virtual press conference to raise awareness of rising COVID numbers. St. Louis County logged a record-breaking week of new COVID-19 cases.

The press conference was streamed to the City of Duluth’s Facebook page and shared on the Duluth Public Schools Facebook page. Information included the increase in COVID-19 cases in Duluth, how COVID is impacting Duluth’s economy and services provided, and encouraging our community to follow COVID safety protocols so that we can allow key services like schools and sports to continue operating.

Local leaders are urging community members to follow COVID safety practices.



Duluth News Tribune

COVID Tips for Young People (and all of us!)

From the MN Department of Health:


Homecoming. The movies. Concerts. Going to work and school safely. We all have that thing we want to get back to.


Wearing a mask + social distancing.

By wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart, the fun doesn’t have to stop. These two actions drastically reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. And when you do it, others are more likely to follow suit.

Getting a test if you have symptoms.

Don’t put your friends and family at risk. If you have any symptoms at all, get tested. You’ll just want to stay at home until you get your results, so you do not to risk infecting anyone. Find a testing location.


If you test positive, try to remain calm. Just make sure you stay away from everyone else for 14 days. This means not sharing items like utensils or electronics, and separating yourself from roommates or whoever you live with. Be in touch with your doctor if you feel really bad or start feeling worse.

Contact tracing.

If you receive a call from the health department, don’t panic. This just means you may have been near someone who has COVID-19. Just listen and answer their questions – make sure to call back if you miss the call – and you’ll learn exactly what to do next.


Learn more about how to slow the spread. Here’s information for everyone, including schools, teachers, parents, and more.

Stay Safe in Daily Activities

If You Are Sick

Stay Safe Guidance for Schools, Colleges, and Universities

Institutes of Higher Education

Materials and Resources for COVID-19 Response

Mental Health Support

It’s important that Minnesotans, and especially children and youth, have access to the mental health care resources they need to stay well during this challenging time. State agencies are working together to ensure these services are available, and they are also connecting people with private organizations that can provide support. This includes telemedicine resources (which replace clinic visits) and other well-being supports to help families and individuals cope.

Big picture

Student Engagement, Attendance

From Anthony Bonds, Assistant Superintendent:

This week middle and high schools began phasing in targeted in-person support at school buildings for selected students. The numbers are small and the work focuses on help with technology and the Canvas platform, mental health or other specific interventions. Future support may focus on academic interventions and drop-in tutoring support with volunteers.

Students are identified by school teams for 1 hour 45 minute sessions in the morning or afternoon. They receive notification of the opportunity from their school. Transportation is provided for students who would normally qualify, and grab and go breakfast/lunch is available.

This week we took steps toward creating more support for student engagement and for increasing attendance. This is essential to ensure students gain the academic and social skills they need to succeed, especially during the pandemic. Starting as early as preschool and kindergarten, chronic absence can leave third graders unable to read proficiently, sixth graders struggling with coursework and high school students off track for graduation.

We are forming a district group focused on building student engagement and increasing attendance. The group will review and monitor attendance data, ensure consistent policies across buildings and help create systemic change beyond the pandemic. Most importantly, the group will work to break down barriers that keep students from attending school, provide family support and engage community partners in that work. Jacob Laurent, Climate Coordinator, is heading up this work, we appreciate his leadership.

Families, Students - Please Log Attendance

Please Log Attendance Each Day During Digital Learning

Families, thank you for your support as we continue to build and improve digital learning in our school district. This is a challenging time and we appreciate your efforts.

Tracking attendance for digital learning each day is vitally important. In addition to helping schools know students are engaged, districts must regularly report accurate attendance numbers to the state education department.

During digital learning, we’re asking that students/families log attendance in Infinite Campus each day. This step will provide more accurate, up-to-date attendance records and help teachers have more time to provide educational support and interact with students.

  • Elementary students and families will log their attendance each day through Infinite Campus Parent Portal or Student Portal.
  • Middle & High School students will log their own attendance each day using Infinite Campus Student Portal.

If you don’t have an Infinite Campus account, please contact your school.

For instructions about how to log your child’s attendance, please check online at www.ISD709.org/DigitalLearning. You’ll find step by step instructions and video tutorials.

Beginning November 9, if a student’s attendance is not logged each day you will receive an absence notification phone call from the school as a reminder.

We appreciate your patience and flexibility while we navigate virtual learning and attendance taking. As always, feel free to contact your school with any questions.

In the News

Edye Binesiikwe Washington, Coordinator of the American Indian Education Department for Duluth Public Schools, spoke on WDSE-TV's Almanac North this week. The segment centered around Deer River's Anishinaabe Education Program, improving student outcomes and helping bridge a cultural divide. Ms. Washington spoke about the Misaabekong Ojibwe Immersion at Lowell Elementary and how the program benefits students.

WDSE-TV Almanac North

Cold, Snowy Weather Strategies

Given the recent early burst of winter weather, please take a moment to review school district procedures during periods of snow and cold. This information is shared with all staff and families at the beginning of the school year and is available on our website.

Congdon First Checkout Contest

At Congdon Elementary, students can put their name in a bucket to be the first to check out one of the library's new books. This lucky winner is enjoying Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris.



Lester Park Elementary

Teachers combine learning with festive fun at Lester Park Elementary.



Awesome Harvest

First graders at Congdon Park Elementary went rooting for carrots in the school garden. Thanks to Alaina Pilate and Renee Willemsen for their tireless garden work.

#Inspire709 #GreenThumbs


Lowell Harvest of Literature

Harvest of Literature was a hit, thanks to everyone who participated! There were many creative characters at school and Lowell is so appreciative of those who donated costumes and dress up accessories. Superintendent John Magas visited school and took part in the event. He read "The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors" by Drew Daywalt to three classrooms.



Piedmont Future Meteorologists

Wind and Weather Research Reports with Mrs. Redetzke's 4th grade scholars. Tornados, Lightening and Rain, Oh My! Not only great researchers but writers and presenters too.

#Inspire709 #PantherProud


Stowe Costume Parade

Stowe Elementary in Duluth held its annual costume parade outdoors this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families and community members lined 101st Avenue West and Goodhue Street, waving from their vehicles. The parade will take place again Friday, Oct. 30, so a second group of students can participate as well.

Duluth News Tribune


Rockridge Students Create Sweet Project

Students at Rockridge Academy, along with their teacher Kelly Dupre and Anne Gorham, paraprofessional, created a fun gingerbread house classroom project.

#Inspire709 #CreativeClassrooms


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