Weekly Update

Duluth Public Schools News Feb. 11, 2022

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear families:

There have been a lot of items in the news lately and I would like to address two of them in this week's newsletter.

First, many of you may have heard the story about Leidy Gellona, a student at Ordean East, who was initially disqualified from swimming in a local event because of her swimsuit.

We couldn’t be more proud of how Leidy handled the situation and how she stood up for herself.

We recognize the importance of continuous ongoing work to address racism, sexism, bias, and equity. This is challenging work that must be of the highest priority in order for our district to achieve its vision for all.

The second item I would like to address is masking. Mayor Emily Larson announced Wednesday that the citywide mask mandate will expire this weekend. Due to this announcement and the current situation around COVID-19 numbers in the schools, we are continuing to re-evaluate our masking policies as numbers are still relatively high but are in sharp decline.

We will be sharing additional information in the near future, as we continue to follow our current procedures at least through the week after break. With many people traveling and spending time with people, we want to ensure that we have an opportunity to assess the situation during the week after break. A number of districts are moving in the same direction, and it is important that we consider our options carefully as we also offer hope for the near future.

I am pleased to report that we will be resuming our ability to offer concerts, limited assemblies, and consider future overnight field trips and dances starting on March 1. This is great news for our students as things begin to open up.

COVID-19 vaccines are one of the best tools we have to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We encourage everyone who is not vaccinated to talk to their primary healthcare provider about the possibility of the widely available vaccines, which are available for everyone age 5 and older.

Educating students during a pandemic is not easy work but it’s clear that in-person learning is what is best for the students academically and mentally. In-person learning will continue to be our top priority as we finish out this school year.


John Magas

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


Local, State COVID Data

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

Minnesota Weekly COVID Report - Includes Cases in PreK through Grade 12 School Buildings by County

Minnesota Situation Update

St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard

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.

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In The News

Duluth Public Schools stands with Leidy Gellona

On Sunday, Feb. 6, Ordean East Middle School student Leidy Gellona (pronounced Lady) was participating in a swimming competition hosted by the Duluth YMCA in Superior. After hearing about the Minneapolis police shooting of Amir Locke while executing a no-knock search warrant, Leidy decided to wear her Black Lives Matter swimsuit to the meet.

During that competition, Leidy was told by a judge that she had to change her swimsuit saying it violated the rules. Leidy refused to change and after telling her mother what happened Sarah Lyons called the Duluth NAACP for support. The Duluth YMCA staff and leadership overruled the volunteer judge allowing Leidy to swim in the remaining heats. You can see the Duluth YMCA statement on their Facebook page.

Because of this incident Leidy has received a lot of media attention. You can see some of those stories below. We celebrate Leidy in her pursuit of speaking her truth and applaud her courage to do so.

News Articles:

Piedmont teacher presented lessons at Space Center Houston

Elise Campbell is just one of our amazing teachers here at Duluth Public Schools. She recently attended a conference at the Space Center Houston. She brought some of the lessons she learned and taught back to Piedmont Elementary.

WDIO Story

Denfeld boys hockey presents special jersey to local military veteran

On Wednesday night, the Duluth Denfeld boys hockey team will host military appreciation night as the Heritage Center. As part of the event, the team ordered jerseys for sponsors, but when one of those sponsors asked for the jersey to be donated, the Hunters knew just who it should be.

The players went up to Edgewood Vista Senior Living to present a jersey to Frank Baker-Hartley with his nickname ‘Wizard’ on the back of it.

Fox21 Story

Duluth East One Act Team does great at sectionals

Congratulations to the 2021-22 Duluth East One Act Team for placing second overall at the section 7AA finals with their submission "A Monster Calls."

Congdon Elementary celebrates Winter Walk Day

from Katie Pastorius Benziger

Hundreds of kids and families (and police and council members) came out for #WinterWalkDay today at Congdon Park Elementary in Duluth, MN
We need #saferoutestoschool on Superior Street!

Instagram Post

Exploring SRO Effectiveness Community Report Back

In order to engage the Duluth Public Schools community (students, staff, families, and residents) in ISD-709’s school board and leadership discussions around school safety planning and specifically School Resource Officers (SROs), the district partnered with Minnesota nonprofit Marnita’s Table to invite a broad range of community members into the discussion via in-person engagement events and an online survey process. Participants were invited to share their experiences, knowledge about, and aspirations for school safety and School Resource Officers in whichever format was most useful and accessible to those interested in participating.

Over the course of eight in-person events hosted by various schools in the district, we brought together 222 participants, of whom approximately 21% were Indigenous, Black, or other people of color, and 70% were youth under the age of 24, with a focus on current students enrolled in public schools across Duluth.

All conversations were open to the community with the notable exception of student- and staff-specific meetings. Additionally, 225 participants elected to complete a voluntary online survey which provided a deidentified opportunity to share opinions, experiences, questions, and concerns about SROs and school safety more generally. The survey questions utilized in this process were based upon those developed for the loosely guided small-group discussion questions prepared for event participants.

On Monday, Marnita's Table held a community event at Fitger's to go over all of the data they collected over the past year. You can find the slides from the presentation and all of the data collected here: https://projects.marnitastable.org/event/view/29/

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We Need Substitutes!

Make a difference by becoming a Duluth Public Schools substitute, our schools need you.

Licensed and non-licensed, a variety of areas.

Current Job Openings

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

Duluth Public Schools is an equal opportunity employer.

Preparing In Case Temporary Remote Learning Is Necessary

Our public health officials agree that, at this time, students are safer in school than they are when schools are in distance learning for a variety of reasons. We will continue to remain in-person as long as we can safely do so.

At the same time, it's prudent for schools to make preparations and plans, should in-person learning no longer be safe and the need to move into temporary remote learning from home becomes necessary.

An overview of what temporary remote learning would look like is available online, and updates will be shared as necessary.

OVERVIEW: Preparing In Case Remote Learning From Home Is Necessary

Duluth Community Education Course Catalog

Duluth Community Education provides opportunities for all ages through classes and activities serving people’s social, recreational, enrichment and academic needs.

We got your learning, social and growth opportunities covered whether it is the arts or a new hobby, technology savvy, cooking or dancing, hot topics and community issues, health, wellness and exercise, sports and nature, new languages, music exploration, all types of yoga, aqua fitness, swim lessons, and much more! In-person, live online or webinars…

Register for classes online using VISA, MasterCard or Discover.

View the Winter 2022 Online Catalog

Register for Classes Online

Duluth Community Education: Building Bridges Through Lifelong Learning

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