Weekly Update

ISD 709 News August 12, 2021

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families,

Excitement is building with less than a month until school begins! We are thrilled to open our doors to five days of in-person learning for elementary, middle and high school students. Along with the rest of the state and nation, we are closely monitoring COVID related issues to maximize both learning and safety and appreciate the support of staff and families as we prepare for school.

Support of the full community is important to our mission. While the phrase “it takes a village,” may be cliche, it’s still so true. In reaching out to the community, I had the honor of presenting information about the work of our school district to the Duluth Chamber of Commerce, Harbortown Rotary and the West Duluth Business Club this week. In each of those settings, I was deeply moved by the outpouring of support for our schools and the respect for our students and staff expressed by these community leaders. As we begin a new year, I am excited about how we can grow and strengthen these partnerships to benefit our students and families, and also work together as we prepare all learners to become future Duluth leaders. This will be even more important as we enter into our strategic planning process later this fall.

My personal journey this summer included time enjoying the beauty of Duluth’s beaches and shoreline, as well as exploring the city bike trails. And, best of all, my wife Kari is finally able to join me in Duluth, having recently started an educational position in Superior. She’s bringing along our dog, Otis.

I can honestly say that I have never been more excited to lead in education as we enter a time of great change and progress in serving our students and families. I am honored and humbled to enter my second year as your superintendent and appreciate all that you do to support the success of each and every learner.

With deep respect and appreciation,

John Magas

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


Safe Learning Plan

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 was recently updated to reflect current mask requirements in response to local COVID surge related to the Delta Variant. 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.
  • Additionally, most medical providers and local drug stores have vaccinations available.

#MaskUp #RollUpYourSleevesMN

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


COVID Vaccination Clinics at Denfeld, Duluth East

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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From Anthony Bonds, Assistant Superintendent

Update: ISD 709 Grant Approved For Student Reengagement

This month St. Louis County approved a recommendation that the Duluth School District be awarded $1,624,977 in funding for student reengagement mentors (up to 14 FTEs). Many thanks to all who helped research and write the grant application for this important work.

The goal of this funding is to reengage students and get them back on track for academic success following the pandemic in our community. We'll partner with St. Louis County and the work will be informed by Check and Connect, a program already used successfully in our school district. University of Minnesota (UMN) Check and Connect leadership will provide guidance in alignment with the program and assistance for training, program coordination, evaluation, coaching and technical support.

Please look for more information as the school year begins, and thank you in advance for your support of student reengagement efforts in our Duluth Public Schools.

Following a thorough and thoughtful hiring process, I’m pleased to announce the selection of Nathan Smith as Coordinator of the Office of Educational Equity for Duluth Public Schools.

Mr. Smith’s most recent experience is with our Duluth Public Schools, serving in the Office of Educational Equity for over a decade as a Diversity Integration Specialist.

Through this important work, he mentored, advocated and supported low income and Black, Indigenous Students of Color through student and family engagement around academic, attendance and college and career readiness programming. He provided knowledge, resources, and interventions to students and families to increase academic success and graduation rates of protected class students and support for students and families in crisis.

His experience also includes work with the Spirit Bay Trading Company, the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center and the Duluth Police Department.

Mr. Smith is completing a Masters in Education and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology with a minor in Political Science from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He holds an Associate of Applied Science in Law Enforcement from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

Many thanks to the selection committee for their time and effort in the selection process. Please help welcome and support Mr. Smith in his new position.

Update: SRO Community Conversation

In the summer of 2020, the Board adopted a resolution directing administration to conduct a review of the School Resource Officer program and to engage community stakeholders in conversations regarding their experiences with School Resource Officers.

In late spring the District entered into a contract with Marnita's Table to facilitate engagement and assessment efforts. An advisory team was established to support the initiative. The team is composed of district office staff, teachers, principals, students, a Duluth Police Department representative and a school board representative.

The first engagement took place with students in June at East and Denfeld. Summer engagement opportunities were discussed and considered. The advisory committee recommended, however, that we pause engagement efforts and resume at the beginning of the year to ensure greater participation. Future engagement dates have been determined (see below).

Because future engagement opportunities will not take place until mid-September and the time needed to complete the analysis of stakeholder feedback, we have entered into and completed contract negotiations with the Duluth Police Department for a 1 year contract for the upcoming school year. This will remove any uncertainty about whether we will or will not have the SRO program for next year. It will also allow Marnita's Table and the advisory time to complete the engagement opportunities and assessment.

Upcoming Stakeholder Conversations and Engagement (details TBD):

  • Wed, September 22/Morning - Middle School Student session (Lincoln Park MS)
  • Wed, September 22/Afternoon - Staff session at Lincoln Park MS
  • Wed, September 22/Evening - Community wide conversation & dinner from 6-9 at Denfeld High School
  • Thurs, September 23/Morning - Middle school student session at (Ordean East MS)
  • Thurs September 23/Afternoon - Staff session at Ordean East MS
  • Thurs September 30/Evening - Final community wide conversation at Duluth East High School

Recent Documents:

Update from High School Engagement

August Advisory Meeting

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

Blended Learning Initiative Web Page

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.

Families, Please Complete the 2021-22 Blended Learning 1 to 1 Agreement Form

2021-22 Blended Learning 1 to 1 Agreement :

  • If you are a parent/guardian of a child age 18 years and younger, this form provides consent for your student to use district approved online resources for instructional purposes. To continue to provide students with the most effective tools to enhance their learning, teachers and librarians may use educational web-based programs and applications. Many of the educational web-based programs and applications require parent permission for children age 18 and under.

  • If you are the parent/guardian of a student entering Grades 3 through 12, this form is an agreement to loan your child a Chromebook for the school year. The device will be used as part of our Blended Learning Initiative. Blended learning enhances in-person learning by providing each student access to educational digital and online resources.

  • Click here to fill out the form.

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 apply and share the information with people you know!

Current Job Openings

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

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Superintendent Guest Speaker at Duluth Chamber Event

Superintendent John Magas spoke with area business leaders at this month's Let's Do Lunch, Duluth event, hosted by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. Superintendent Magas talked about the work done by teachers, staff and administrators to manage response to the pandemic; the sale of Historic Old Central and Central on the Hill; and what the future holds as we look to build a new and better normal for students, families and staff.

Thanks to the Duluth Chamber for this opportunity to share information about our schools.

View the Presentation


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