Weekly Update

ISD 709 News August 26, 2021

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families,

Next week is an exciting week for us! No, it’s not yet the first week of school, but it is the week in which much of our staff officially returns to us to finish preparations for the start of the school year. That said, I don’t know of many people that haven’t already been in, preparing their classrooms, spaces and processes for the return of our students and families. We are SO excited for the start of school and in-person instruction for all!

On Monday, our New Teacher Induction will be held at Duluth East High School, kicking things off for our beginning educators. I absolutely love new teacher induction, and with this being my first one to attend in-person in Duluth, I can’t wait to feel the positive energy and enthusiasm that our newest teachers bring to serving the learning needs of each of our students.

I remember my first day as a high school teacher. I had taught English in Mexico as well as workplace literacy in a beef slaughter plant prior, but I was so looking forward to welcoming my students to the Spanish and English classes that I was teaching. My friends teased me because I listened to a cassette tape presentation by Harry Wong, author of The First Days of School, again and again during my commute across the northern desert of Central Washington. I didn’t care; I wanted to make sure that each day of learning was the best it could be for my students.

Each of us looks forward to the beginning of the school year in different ways. We know that some have anxieties, particularly with the ongoing safety issues of the COVID pandemic. Balancing the safety and learning needs has been central to our work throughout the summer.

There is one thing, however, in these times of uncertainty, that I can guarantee - that as a district we are ready to put our hearts, minds and sweat into ensuring a great school year for each and every child!

With deep respect and appreciation,

John Magas

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


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AIPAC Receives National Recognition

The Duluth American Indian Parent Advisory Committee (AIPAC) has been awarded Exemplary Program of the Year for our region by the National Johnson O'Malley Association, congratulations!

This national 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. Chairperson Angela Buffalo will accept this award at the National JOM conference in Atlantic City, NJ at the end of September.

The NJOMA is a nonprofit, educational organization formed to:

  • Mutually develop standards of educational excellence for Indian students served by the educational programs within the United States.
  • To maintain appropriate lines of communication and collaborative efforts with other public, private, tribal and federal educators and educational programs.
  • To advocate for Johnson-O'Malley Programs and the rights of Indian children from 3 years old through twelfth grade.
Photo: 2019 State MIEA Award for Leadership, Jamie de la Cruz, American Indian Home School Liaison for the ISD 709 Duluth American Indian Education Program

Reporting Absence for Religious Observance

In response to a recent question regarding Rosh Hashana and absence from school for religious observance - to be considered excused, the absence would be reported to the school as one would report being out of school for an important and significant family event. Check with your school or with the Assistant Superintendent’s office if you have questions about how to report a student absence.

Welcome Students & Families

Happy New Year!

  • School starts September 7, 2021 for Grades 1 - 12

  • Kindergarteners begin school September 9, 2021

>>General 2021-22 Back to School information is being posted at ISD709.org/BackToSchool

>>School specific information comes from your school from mid to late August.

>>Families new to Duluth Public Schools, who have not yet enrolled their child, are encouraged to do so as soon as possible at ISD709.org/Enroll

#Inspire709 #NewSchoolYear

Families, if you haven't already done so, please complete the following forms to help schools get ready for the new school year. Thank you in advance for providing this information, it will help school staff prepare to welcome and serve students in September.

1. 2021-22 Blended Learning 1 to 1 Agreement: Required for All Families Grades K-12. More about Blended Learning.

Click here to fill out the Blended Learning form.

2. MN Department of Education Digital Survey: For the purpose of improving educational outcomes and digital access for public school students across the state.

Click here to take the MDE survey.

3. Application for Educational Benefits Form: Families may qualify for reduced school activity fees, benefits and other discounts - and help provide important state and federal funds for Duluth's schools.

Click here to fill out the application.

Again, thank you for taking time to complete these forms and best wishes for a great school year!

PORT CARDS for Students

Sign Up for a FREE PORT CARD - Great Student Resource! Easy to Use. Impossible to Lose.

A PORT CARD is an electronic library card that gives ISD709 students FREE access to books, ebooks, audiobooks, and databases. The card enables students to:

  • Borrow up to 5 books or materials for FREE from the Duluth Public Library.
  • Borrow up to 10 ebooks or audiobooks for FREE from the Duluth Public Library.
  • Access Duluth Public Library online databases for research.
  • No physical library card required. Students check out books & materials with their Student ID number.
  • No financial risk.

Check the PORT CARD FAQ Page for details.

Sign up here for a PORT CARD

Safe Learning Plan Update

Please see below, a brief overview of updates to the ISD 709 Safe Learning Plan related to the start of the new school year. Details are available at ISD709.org/SafeLearningPlan.

We want to do all that we can to provide safe, effective in-person learning as a district and community this school year. During distance learning last year, fewer than 30% of students reported that they were comfortable with the learning model. We heard very strongly from our students, families and staff that our students need in-person instruction.

These COVID protocols, including mask wearing and encouraging vaccinations for those 12 years and older, are tools that can help keep local COVID rates down and ensure in-person learning this school year. Many health organizations are recommending mask wearing in schools, including but not limited to: The Centers for Disease Control, American Association of Pediatricians, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Pediatricians and St. Louis County Department of Health.

  • Duluth Public Schools will begin the school year with students in-person 5 days a week.
  • At this time, distance learning PK-8, as well as hybrid learning format are not being offered in the 2021-22 school year.
  • Students Grades 9 - 12 who desire distance learning are encouraged to enroll in ISD 709’s Academic Excellence Online High School. Learn details at ISD709.org/AEO.
  • Mask wearing will continue to be required for students age 2 and older, ISD 709 employees and the public in all ISD 709 buildings as the school year begins.
  • Children under 2 years of age or people of any age who are unable to tolerate wearing a face covering because of a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability are exempted.
  • Vaccinations for COVID-19 for those 12 and older are strongly recommended and encouraged, but are not currently required by the school district.
  • Information on Saint Louis County vaccine clinics can be found here.
  • The State of Minnesota’s vaccine locator can be found here.
  • The Safe Learning Plan also includes updated guidance for building use by the community, athletics & activities, cleaning and day-to-day operations, among other information.

We will continue to work closely with the St. Louis County Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education to monitor local COVID rates and state and federal guidance. These safety protocols are subject to change as conditions and guidance changes.

Thank you for your understanding and support, and best wishes for a healthy, safe and productive school year.

#MaskUp #RollUpYourSleevesMN

From Anthony Bonds, Assistant Superintendent

Update: SRO Community Conversation

In September, we invite Duluth students, families, staff and public to engage in conversations exploring SRO effectiveness. Events are hosted by Marnita's Table, they are free and open to the public - RSVPs are requested.

Download the PDF

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MN K-12 Tax Benefits for Families

From the MN Department of Revenue:

If you're buying school supplies for your children in kindergarten through 12th grade, you may qualify for one or both of these tax benefits:

  • K-12 Education Subtraction
  • K-12 Education Credit
Save your receipts because both benefits can help lower your taxes and may provide a larger refund when filing your Minnesota income tax return. Last year, more than 33,000 families received the K-12 Education Credit and saved an average of $250. Nearly 190,000 families received the K-12 Education Subtraction.

View the Flyer

Visit www.revenue.state.mn.us and enter K12 into the Search box or call 651-296-3781 or 1-800-652-9094.

Advance Child Tax Credit Payments For Families

From the IRS:

Important changes to the Child Tax Credit will help many families get advance payments of the Child Tax Credit starting in the summer of 2021.

■ Eligible families can receive advance payments of up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child age 6 and above.

■ You can benefit from the credit even if you don’t have earned income or don’t owe any income taxes.

■ The credit includes children who turn age 17 in 2021.

■ The tax credit is expanded to include advance payments for 2021 only

Check Out the Flyer

Click Here to Get Started

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. If you're interested, please apply and 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

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Denfeld Senior Set-Up

Denfeld High School hosted a Senior Set-Up event for the Class of 2022 and their families. People gathered together for music, food and to help begin preparing seniors for graduation. Students learned more about graduation requirements, received info from colleges and universities, all military branches, Twin Ports outreach and employment agencies.

Many thanks to all who helped make this happen for our Denfeld seniors!

#Inspire709 #HunterPrideCommunitywide


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Summer Creativity

Thank you, Deb Johnson, for sending along this cute photo of pillows made during the Extended School Year program (ESY) this summer. Each student chose the materials that they wanted and the placement on the pillow. Deb sewed them together and then the students chose their eye color and shape. Last step was to stuff them. Students took them home to share this great project!


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