ISD 709 News 10/21/21

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families:

In preparing for the mental health and social emotional challenges that we knew we would face with our full return to in-person learning this fall, we were able to allocate significant additional resources to support our students and staff. We added counselors, behavior support staff, deans of students and other positions. We also applied for and received a substantial grant to focus on student mental health.

Several of our schools have experienced additional behavior issues and mental health concerns over the past few weeks. As noted in Kaylin Belsha’s article, Stress and Short Tempers: Schools Struggle with Behaviors as Students Return, this is a nationwide issue. Many districts have seen a sizable increase in behavioral issues.

I realize that each time I say “this is a national issue,” whether it be for staffing shortages, supply chains, or other COVID related issues, it runs the risk of sounding like excuse making. There are no excuses; it’s on us as a district and as a community to address these needs. What I mean instead is that as many districts are struggling with these challenges, it is very important that we learn and grow from our collective experiences.

We must also tap into the many community resources that we have to support our students. Ross Greene, a behavioral expert, once said that “challenging behavior is communication from a student that they are having a hard time meeting expectations.”

It’s on us to double down on safety AND to assure that the needs of our students are being met. Our staff and administration work very hard each day in this regard and I am confident in our ability to do so.

It is in difficult times that we must continue to ground ourselves in our collective core values:

  • We will not tolerate violence, harassment or intimidation

  • We will continue to value and promote kindness, compassion and respect for others.

  • We will ensure student safety through supervision, redirection, intervention and, when necessary, consequences to deter misbehavior

  • We will support our students to problem-solve and resolve their differences in a respectful manner

  • We will support our mission to bring our schools and communities together and maintain a safe and welcoming environment for each and every student.

The children of our community are counting on us to meet their varied needs. We are deeply committed to doing so, as well as continuing to partnering with families and communities to do so. Thank you for your ongoing support.

With appreciation,

John Magas

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


Duluth AIEPAC Recognized for Exemplary Work

Members of the Duluth American Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee were honored by the Duluth School Board this month for receiving Exemplary Program of the Year for our region from the National Johnson O'Malley Association. This award highlights the efforts of the parent committee and the Duluth American Indian Education Department to engage American Indian students in culturally relevant activities and events. The award recognizes the important work of the committee in supporting the mission of the Duluth American Indian Education program: to promote youth leadership, provide academic support, and encourage career development for American Indian students based on American Indian values, culture and language. Committee Chairperson Angela Buffalo recently accepted this award at the NJOMA conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Congratulations on receiving this award, and thank you for your leadership and support of Duluth students and families.

Duluth American Indian Education Program

Photo (left to right): Anthony Bonds, Dani Dunphy, Angela Buffalo, John Magas


Thank You, Duluth School Bus Drivers!

It's National School Bus Safety Week, many thanks to our school bus drivers for their dedication to keeping students safe. You can help them by slowing down when you see a school bus on the road and stopping when you see the flashing red light and stop-arm extended.

We're Hiring School Bus Drivers, apply today! Starting at $19.54/hour with excellent benefits.

#Inspire709 #schoolheroes


Duluth Adult Education Move

Duluth's Adult Education program has moved out of HOCHS and relocated to:

325 W. 1st Street, 3rd Floor, Duluth, MN 55802

Located on the corner of 1st. Street and 4th Ave. West behind City Hall.

  • Current students can continue in person learning with their teachers on Tues, Wed, and Thur from 9:00AM - 2:30PM.
  • New students can call 218-336-8756 to find out how to enroll and when registration will take place.
  • Continuing to offer the following programs: GED, Adult Diploma, English as a Second Language, Computer Literacy, Basic Skills, College Brush-up, and prep for CDL, CNA, Information Technology, and Paraprofessional.

Duluth Adult Education Web Page

Thank you, Angie Frank, for the photos and info.

Update: Safe Learning Plan

As the COVID pandemic continues, our schools continue to review and update response to ensure health and safety. The Safe Learning Plan reflects current local planning and is subject to change based on local, state and national guidance.

COVID Home Test Kits:

Duluth Public Schools received state provided home COVID test kits and are finalizing procedures for use with symptomatic students. Our district has also applied for additional funding for testing for staff and plans to share more information for both of these programs in the near future.

Quarantine & Close Contact Updates:

Duluth Public Schools follows the First and Second Paths of the MDH COVID Decision Tree, with the Third Close Contact path adjusted to meet the needs of Duluth’s schools. Specifically, a 10 day quarantine will be the standard quarantine period and there will no longer be a 7 day shortened quarantine option.

Given MDH quarantine exceptions, current mitigation strategies in place, the impact of notification letters in raising awareness, the availability of home COVID test kits for symptomatic students and with the current mask mandate in place, the following updates have been made to quarantine procedures:

Classrooms/Activity Groups:

● Quarantine of individuals and/or the entire classroom/activity group and will be assessed and supported on a case by case basis. (Page 5)

Close Contacts:

● Students and staff identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and do not meet the quarantine exception criteria must quarantine for 10 days from the last date of exposure to that person.

● If symptoms develop during the quarantine period, the person identified as a close contact must be tested for COVID-19. A negative COVID-19 test will not shorten the quarantine period. Positive test results must be reported to the school health office. (Page 6)

Household Contacts:

● If a household member has tested positive for COVID-19, unvaccinated household contacts must stay home and quarantine during the positive person’s 10 day isolation period.

● The quarantine period for the unvaccinated household contact will extend past the 10 day isolation period for an additional 10 days.

● If symptoms develop anytime during the quarantine period, the household contact must be tested for COVID-19. A negative COVID-19 test will not shorten the quarantine period. Positive test results must be reported to the school health office.

● Vaccinated household contacts do not need to quarantine unless symptoms develop. If symptoms develop, the vaccinated household contact must stay home and be tested for COVID-19. (Page 6)

Staff and Students with COVID-19 Like Symptoms

● ISD709 Duluth Public Schools uses the first and second path of the MDH Decision Tree for all symptomatic staff and students regardless of vaccination status.

● A negative COVID-19 test or an alternative diagnosis is needed for staff and students with COVID-19 like symptoms to return to school/work. If a negative COVID-19 test or an alternative diagnosis is not received, the symptomatic staff or student must stay home for 10 days from the start of symptoms. (Page 7)

Details at www.ISD709.org/SafeLearningPlan

State and County Data:

Minnesota Weekly COVID Report

Access St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard

Education During Quarantine

Providing educational services for students quarantined due to COVID will be addressed in a way similar to an excused longer term illness. Members of the ISD 709 Teaching, Learning & Equity/COVID sub-group met to further refine and clarify expectations for quarantine in regards to instruction.

Elementary (K-5):

  • Students will be considered having an excused absence while in quarantine.

  • Teachers will initially offer up to 3 days of learning opportunities for students on any length of quarantine.

  • Learning opportunities could consist of worksheets, activities, or at home suggestions and will be based upon reviewing prior content only.

  • Students will not be required to return the work to school unless otherwise directed by the teacher.

  • Students will not be participating in synchronous learning while quarantined with an excused absence.

Secondary (6-12):

  • Students will be considered having an excused absence while in quarantine.

  • Use of Learning Management System (LMS) to continue learning opportunities (i.e. posting/turning in of assignments, discussion, etc.).

  • Teachers should accommodate as needed for students/families requiring paper-based materials.

  • Students will not be provided new instruction (synchronously or asynchronously) while in quarantine.

  • Quarantined students will have accommodations for extended deadlines.

Special Education Services:

Homebound: In situations where an individual student or entire classroom or school is quarantined, homebound services may be offered to students receiving special education services by the case manager.

  • Special Education plan for students on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

SRO Effectiveness Survey

This survey is designed to elicit student, family, and community feedback about your experiences with student resource officers (SROs) in Duluth Public Schools for the purposes of supporting and informing policy decisions in the school district.

  • Your responses will remain anonymous (unless you share identifying information in your comments) and will be considered alongside the responses of other members of the Duluth Public Schools to determine community preferences and best practices for student safety and success in school.
  • If you choose to share identifying information in your comments, those comments will be de-identified (i.e. specific details which might identify you to someone in the district will be removed from any data or reports shared with the district) in order to protect your privacy and create the space for honest feedback about your experiences.
  • In support of these goals, the information collected through this survey will be analyzed by an independent nonprofit organization specializing in community-based participatory research and engagement and reported back to district leadership.
  • The reports created for Duluth Public Schools from the de-identified information shared will be available for review in a public forum once published at projects.marnitastable.org, in case you would like to follow up, stay informed, or reflect on the input of the other participating members of the Duluth Public School community.
  • Please complete the survey by October 25, 2021, thank you!


Any questions about the design, analysis or use of this survey data can be directed to elexis@marnitastable.org. We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your candor and participation!

Cold, Snowy Weather Strategies

As winter weather becomes a possibility, 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.

We're Hiring - Join Our Team!

You can make a positive difference in our schools! 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.

  • Medical/Prescription Drug

  • Health Reimbursement Account

  • Dental

  • Life Insurance

  • Long Term Disability

  • Flexible Spending Accounts

  • Dependent Care Accounts

  • Retirement

  • Tax-Shelter Annuity Options

  • Time Off

Please share this information with people you know - encourage them to join our team!

Current Job Openings

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

Duluth Public Schools is an equal opportunity employer

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Congratulations, State Bound Hounds!

Duluth East Boys Soccer Team earned a spot at the Class AAA State Tournament this week with a 3-0 Section 7AAA win over Centennial.

#Inspire709 #GoHounds


Lester Park Students Learn From Firefighters

The Duluth Fire Department B Shift 6 Engine crew visited kindergarten classes at Lester Park Elementary School this week. Students got to see firefighting gear and a fire truck up close and to learn about fire safety.

Thank you, members of the Duluth MN Fire Department, for the visit to Lester Park Elementary and for teaching kindergarteners how to be safe!

#Inspire709 #CommunitySupport


Duluth East High School Presents:

The Northland Premiere of Disney's Freaky Friday!

October 28-30 7:00 PM

October 31 1:00PMPM

Duluth East High School

301 N. 40th Avenue East, Duluth MN

Tickets at the Door: Adults $15, Students $10

Cash or Check Only, Masks Required

When an overworked mother and her teenage daughter magically swap bodies, they have just one day to put things right again. Freaky Friday, a new musical based on the celebrated novel by Mary Rodgers and the hit Disney films, is a heartfelt, comedic, and unexpectedly emotional update on an American classic. By spending a day in each other's shoes, Katherine and Ellie come to appreciate one another's struggles, learn self-acceptance, and realize the immeasurable love and mutual respect that bond a mother and daughter.

Thank you, Peter Froehlingsdorf, for the information.


From the City of Duluth, Planning & Economic Development :

Share your thoughts on the City of Duluth Broadband Survey!

The City of Duluth has launched a survey to collect essential data from residents about internet access and affordability.

The 3-minute survey can be found by visiting www.connectingduluth.com and in-person at your local Duluth Library Branch.

Questions: connectingduluth@duluthmn.gov

From the City of Duluth Parks & Recreation Division:

The City of Duluth’s Parks & Recreation Division requests your participation in a community survey to help shape the development of the Essential Spaces: Duluth Parks, Recreation, Open Space & Trails Plan. Essential Spaces will serve as the long-range master plan to guide decision-making for Duluth’s parks system.
  • Public input is needed to better understand how parks, recreation, open space, and trails in Duluth should be preserved, developed, improved, and enjoyed over the next 10 years.
  • The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and will remain open through November 9.
  • At the end of the survey, participants will have the option to enter a drawing for one of 20 gift cards valued at $20 each.
  • Survey responses are confidential and no personal identifying information will be shared.
The Essential Spaces community survey link can be found at: polco.us/duluthparks2021 .

Questions: Email Cliff Knettel at cknettel@DuluthMN.gov