ISD 709 News 11/13/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

We find ourselves in the midst of a surge, with COVID cases rising sharply and projected to continue to rise even more dramatically in the coming weeks. The number of students and staff testing positive and those in quarantine increased significantly this week, making staffing a challenge.

We continue to work closely with officials from Essentia Health, including their data scientists and epidemiologists. They have shared that our health systems are stretched to a dangerous point and they are pleading for the community to take dramatic action.

As shared earlier, state and local health officials have recommended that we make a shift to distance learning for several weeks. We join many other districts around the state in making that shift.

Next week, our hybrid elementary classes will transition to distance learning and we will pause in-person activities/athletics.

  • Elementary instruction of all students will fully pause for transition and preparation on November 18.
  • For transitioning elementary students and teachers, on the 19th and 20th, teacher supported at home learning will occur as we complete our transition to distance learning beginning the following week.
  • Secondary instruction will not be impacted by the transition.
  • Additional details will be provided over the next several days by the district as well as your principals.

We are accelerating our efforts to minimize impact on our students’ learning, but have built in time for you to make this shift. We appreciate your patience with our teachers as they transition to elementary distance learning.

In addition to focusing on learning, one of the most important things we can do for our students at this time is to meet their social emotional needs. We will be providing additional resources and appreciate you checking them often. To help our children we have to take care of ourselves, too. And as best we can, we need to try to be hopeful - for our students, for each other.

Turning back the dial on in-person learning and activities is disappointing for all of us. I, too, am disappointed because I know the impact that it has on individual students, families, staff and on learning in general. it’s not something any of us want or would choose to do, but sometimes the hard choice, the unpopular choice, is also the right choice.

It’s our hope, that through a community wide effort to promote safe practices, that our transmission rates will decline and allow us to resume in the near future.

This is a once in a century global pandemic. Unprecedented. We have to work together to adapt and adjust and respond with skill as we take care of our children and take care of each other.

Thank you for all that you do.

John Magas

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


Next Week: Model Shift to Elementary Distance Learning, Activities/Athletics Pause

Duluth Public Schools will transition to distance learning for elementary students and pause in-person activities/athletics starting next week in response to rising COVID-19 cases in our community. Changes begin Wednesday November 18 and will be in place through at least December 13. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the pandemic together.

View the Details

Officials Urge Public Help To Address COVID Spike

Superintendent John Magas joined Mayor Emily Larson and local health organizations for a second virtual press conference to raise awareness of a surge and continued rise in COVID numbers.

The press conference was streamed to the City of Duluth’s Facebook page and shared on the Duluth Public Schools Facebook page.

Duluth News Tribune



Data for K-12 Schools: 14-Day COVID19 Case Rate By County - Subject to Update
Access St. Louis County MN COVID-19 Dashboard - Check bi-weekly case rates for schools

Sources of Strength - Week 1

From the ISD 709 Sources of Strength Team:

This week we focus on Family Supports. Whether related to us by blood, or by choice, these are the people who support, nurture and care for us. These can be people in our foster families, step families, biological families, extended families and chosen families.

Conversation starters:

  • What is an example of a time Family Support was really helpful for you?

  • What unique traditions do you have in your family/

  • How do you show Family support to others?


  • Have a family dance party at breakfast

  • Make a DIY cooking video with your family

  • Have a family game night

For additional ideas, check out this link (Family Support Activities)

Over the next weeks we will map out eight strength based conversations and activities for you to have and do at home. Neuroscience and Positive psychology show that we can change our brains: becoming more optimistic and successful when we have fun, leaning into our strengths and practicing gratitude each day!

Online: Sources of Strength

CSS Tutoring Support

Duluth Public Schools is entering into an agreement with the College of Saint Scholastica (CSS) to provide academic tutoring supports for our students that are participating in Distance or Hybrid Learning models.

CSS tutors will begin providing supports within the next couple of weeks.

  • Tutoring support is available online and will be provided through Zoom meeting links, as CSS accounts do not work with Google Meet.
  • CSS students do not have teacher access to Canvas or Seesaw and will not be working with teacher(s) to get work.
  • A parent can elect to give access rights as an observer to a tutor working with a student or the student can share the online learning with a tutor.
Parents must give permission for students to access these supports. Please complete the following form to indicate your interest in having your child participate to receive tutoring supports. Please include contact information so a tutor can reach out to you once the program is initiated.

Request Tutoring Support

100 Day Plan Update

This month, Superintendent Magas updated the Duluth School Board and Community regarding progress on the 100 Day Plan. Areas include academic excellence, equity, cohesive leadership teams, continuous improvement and planning for ongoing work. This includes development of a 5-year strategic plan to begin in the 21-22 school year.

View the Update

Holiday Programs Paused This Year

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and guidance from the CDC, MDH and NFHS, Duluth Public School's Music department and schools are not able to provide an opportunity for holiday concerts or programs this year. The music department and schools will continue to monitor the ability to provide potential performances or concerts in the spring.

Thank You, Duluth Community Education Staff & Instructors

This week we recognize National Community Education Day, celebrating 51 years providing life-long learning opportunities for every member of the family. Governor Tim Walz also proclaimed Community Education Day in Minnesota.

Many thanks to our Duluth Community Education staff and instructors for all they do to support: Adult Education . Youth & Adult Enrichment . Aquatics Early Childhood & Preschool . School Age Care - KEY Zone . Facility Use . Community Partnerships And So Much More!


Learn More

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Duluth ECFE - Early Childhood Family Education

Happy families are receiving their ECFE to Go bags filled with materials and activity ideas. ECFE to Go is distributed one time each month. The bags have separate envelopes for each week. All ECFE programs include parent education, early childhood education, and parent-child interaction.


ISD 709 Birth to Age 5 Programs

Duluth East Giving Tree

Students from Duluth East High School want to help make the holidays special for those in need. They've organized a virtual Giving Tree, please see below if you can help.

Duluth East Giving Tree

Please share this with your family and friends!

#Inspire709 #GivingBack


Congdon Student Gives Back

This Congdon Park fifth grader donated a book to the school library for her birthday in 2020. Other students can, too! The school will take a picture and share it on the school’s social media and will put a personalized bookplate in the book to celebrate the birthday donation.

#Inspire709 #GivingBack


Outdoor Phy Ed

Students and staff at Lowell Elementary are always ready to learn outside. And when the weather took a recent turn toward gorgeous, this Phy. Ed class took advantage. The kids did some warm up exercises and then took a hike in the woods.

#Inspire709 #LowellLions2020


Learning Outside the Classroom

Warm temps and sunshine brought Congdon Park students outside for their lessons. A great way to take advantage of an especially nice day.

#Inspire709 #OutdoorLearning


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