Weekly Update

Duluth Public Schools News April 8, 2022

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear families:


As you know, we have canceled school due to winter weather the past two Wednesdays. This is somewhat uncommon for this time of year.


As superintendent, it is my responsibility to make that decision, based on many factors, involving many people. In doing so, I recognize that this has a significant effect on thousands of people and is not a decision we take lightly.


Parents and guardians having to take time off from work unexpectedly have a great impact on income and job stability for many families, not to mention the lost time to focus on our students’ learning and mental health needs are factors that weigh heavily on our minds. We also have to ensure the safety of our students and staff as they commute to school, some walking, some coming by bus, and others coming in their own vehicles. Our district has interesting geography, as well, necessitating that we think about differing needs throughout the entire district. Being 30 miles long, having different weather patterns on our country roads, as well as our steep hillside communities, sometimes results in what seems like a poor choice for some and the right choice for others.


I know the people of Duluth are tough and are accustomed to challenging weather. I grew up on a rural bus route in the middle of nowhere on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so I am no stranger to drifting, lake effect snow, and the other gifts that Old Man Winter bestows upon us. I also take the responsibility of ensuring the safety of each of our students, staff and families very seriously, especially in potentially life-threatening situations.


So what happens? How and when do we make the decision to cancel school?


At least one day prior to the expected bad weather, we begin to carefully monitor the NOAA weather forecasts, receiving customized updates from the Duluth National Weather Service. Because we don’t want to call off school unnecessarily, we can’t often make the call until the early morning, although we want to give parents as much notice as possible.


Our Supervisor of Transportation, Steve Johnson, is up driving the roads, usually between 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and is also in touch with NOAA, our transportation providers, and district transportation supervisors from other districts. He then calls me, around 3:45-4 a.m. to discuss the current situation. At that time, I communicate with other local districts — Superior, Hermantown and Proctor — to consider their conditions as well. I then make the decision, by 4:45 a.m. if possible, to cancel or keep our schools open. We then share this information with families, staff and media outlets.


In general, two-hour delays do not work well for our district because of the combination of rural roads and city roads. While a two-hour delay may be enough time for city roads to be cleared that is not always the case for the rural roads in our district, which may be unplowed and still dangerous for parents, students and bus drivers after a two-hour delay.


Here are a couple of resources that we utilize as well:




With all this said, I hope that warmer Spring weather will be knocking on our door in the next few weeks! I also want to thank all of our staff, students and families for their flexibility with poor weather situations.


Best regard,

John Magas


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

Superintendent@ISD709.org

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Duluth's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community celebrates Daniel Durant

Daniel Durant, a Duluth native and former Lakewood Elementary student, was honored Monday, April 4 by Mayor Emily Larson, who proclaimed it Daniel Durant Day.


Daniel started in the Apple TV movie "CODA," which won Best Picture at the Oscars.


Daniel started his education at Lakewood Elementary School. Carla Larson, who has a deaf daughter, was Daniel's first teacher there. Larson talked to Fox21 about the programs here in Duluth.


Fox21 also talked to Lead Deaf and Hard of Hearing teacher Julie Guddeck, who spoke about the impact Daniel has on our students in the district as well as all Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids.


Fox21 Story

Amazing 8 under 18: Lee Brooks the Happy Birthday Boy!

Lee Brooks loves to put a smile on the faces and joy in the hearts of many, especially when it is someone's special day.


If you are a student or a staff member and it is your birthday, they're a special song waiting for you. All of this was started out of the kindness of Lee's heart and wanting to be a voice for those who feel like they don't have one, especially for the first student that helped start it all.


WDIO Story

Ordean East Advance Orchestra students played in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis

Our Ordean East Middle School Advanced Orchestra achieved the highest scores in the state Middle School Tier 1 Orchestra Festival held at four sites around the state in February and March. As a result of their excellent performance, they were invited to play in the Tier 2 concert in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Monday, April 4.


Orchestra members rehearsed with professional musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra in the afternoon and they were selected to be the opening orchestra in the evening concert! Orchestras from Moorhead, Stillwater, Mounds View and Minnetonka also played in the concert.


We are so proud of our orchestra students. They represented Ordean East and our school district very well!

Duluth Adult Education has successful open house

Duluth Adult Education (DAE) held a successful open house on Monday, April 4 after having to push it back due to a snow day. Those who stopped by included School Board members, Superintendent John Magas, Mayor Emily Larson and more.


Many people think access to a free public education ends when they walk out of their high school, but this is not the case. Adults 18 and older can access free public education at DAE.


DAE offers online and in-person free classes for adults. There are 5 programs available:


Basic Skills and Refresher

  • Students in this program brush up and practice basic writing, reading, and math skills to help with daily living or to enrich their lives.


English Language Learners

  • Students in this program develop their English skills. The first language of current students in the program includes Dari, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, and French.

GED or Diploma

  • Students in this program study to pass the GED test or can also take classes to earn credit to finish the diploma they started in high school.


College Prep

  • Students in this program take reading, writing, and math classes at Lake Superior College to make sure they are college ready to enroll at Lake Superior College.


Career Path

  • Students: Students in this program work with Duluth Adult Education, City of Duluth CareerForce, SOAR Career Solutions, Lake Superior College, and/or Community Action Duluth to obtain employment in the following fields: Certified Nursing Assistant, Auto Technician, Paraprofessional, Health Services, Information Technology, Construction Trades, and Highway Heavy Machinery Construction.


For more information, visit isd709.org/DAE.


Fox21 Story

WDIO Story

City of Duluth lowers speed in front of Congdon Park Elementary

Parents and drivers may have already noticed a new sign up in front of Congdon Park Elementary School. That sign is a new 20 mph speed limit sign designating the area of Superior Street in front of Congdon Park Elementary a school zone.


This is a huge win for the school and every parent that helped push the city in the right direction to make sure routes to schools are safer.


This is a big win for our students! Kudos to everyone that help!

Happy School Library Month!

April is School Library Month! But Monday, April 7 was School Librarian Day and we want to take the time to say thanks.


School librarians are as important now as ever before. Students have an immense amount of information at their fingertips. In addition to teaching and reinforcing library and media skills, reading comprehension skills, digital literacy skills, and supporting a growing love of reading, part of the work of a school librarian is to teach students how to think critically about information, how to sift through sources to determine which ones are reliable, how to conduct proper research, and how to summarize and communicate their ideas and the results of research.


We celebrate our school library media specialists:


  • Kevin Anderson (Homecroft/Lester Park)
  • Susie Backstrom (Laura Mac/Myers-Wilkins > Lavina Kelley (Lester Park)
  • Colleen Knettel (Denfeld/LPMS)
  • Cindy Miller (Congdon/Lakewood)
  • Brian Schilling (Piedmont/Stowe)
  • Sheryl Van Scoy (Lowell)
  • Patti Wipson (East/OEMS)
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District COVID-19 numbers

These numbers reflect positive COVID-19 cases by site. The total includes all self-reported positive cases based on the date the case was reported to the school district. Not every person who reported a positive case was in a district building while contagious. These numbers include at-home COVID-19 test kits.


The CDC and Minnesota Department of Health only report positive cases where the person was inside a school building while infectious. The department’s numbers do not include positive cases determined by an at-home COVID-19 test kit.


They do this because there is not a medical professional present to:

  • Confirm who is taking the test,

  • That the home test has not expired,

  • That a proper sample is taken and more.


The CDC and Minnesota Department of Health is also reporting numbers that are at least a week old. If you have questions regarding these numbers, feel free to send your questions to covidquestions@isd709.org.


Detailed updates are available from the Minnesota Department of Health and St. Louis County Department of Health.

Minnesota Weekly COVID Report

Minnesota Situation Update

St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard

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