ISD 709 News 10/15/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

As the school year progresses, in a year unlike any other, it's especially important to remember to care for ourselves so that we can care for our students, families and loved ones.

The pandemic puts many additional stressors on our lives - isolation, economic challenges, frustration about work and the learning needs of our children, childcare, the difficulties of remote work, illness and loss. Now, more than ever, there is an increased need to focus on mental health and well-being.

As a district, we are increasing supports for serving the social emotional learning needs of students and are working to increase mental health supports for students, staff, and families.

Self-care is especially important. When our plates are so full and it feels like we're too busy to do so remember the importance of "putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others."

Getting enough sleep, exercising and being active, eating well, and taking the time for pursuits and people that bring you joy is essential. Finding ways to safely connect with others, while challenging, is essential to recharging.

If you know of others in need or if you're in need of help yourself, please consider the resources that are out there for support. Students and families are encouraged to reach out to our social workers and school counselors. Many local and state organizations are at the ready to provide assistance as well.

I empathize with the difficulties you're facing and appreciate all that families in our schools are doing as we address the challenges of the pandemic.

With gratitude and appreciation,

John Magas

If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email: ReturnToLearn@ISD709.org

Thank You, Duluth School Lunch Staff

It’s National School Lunch Week, many thanks to the dedicated Duluth school nutrition professionals who provide healthy meals that help students achieve academic success no matter where they're learning this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt shown just how incredibly important school meals are for students and their families. Thanks to the staff at Myers-Wilkins Elementary for the photo!

#Inspire709 #Heroes


Area Superintendents Ask Public To Help Reduce COVID Rates

Duluth Superintendent John Magas joined area superintendents in signing a letter, asking the public to help reduce local COVID rates so students can participate in in-person learning and high school activities.

Read the Duluth News Tribune Article

Thirty-two superintendents from 34 districts signed the letter, which said:

"We're writing to you today to ask for your help. We want our kids in school as much as possible. You, the great people in our communities, have said you also want our kids in school,” the letter says. “We know of only one way that gives us the best chance at safely keeping our kids in school, sports and activities. We need your help.

“Please help us keep cases low and our kids in school by following the very clear guidelines offered by (the Minnesota Department of Health).” The letter goes on asking community members to avoid crowds, stay 6 feet from others, wash your hands, keep family and social gathering outdoors, wear a mask and stay home when sick.

“Do it for our kids,” the letter ends.

Rising COVID Rates May Shutdown High School Activities

We want families to be aware that the rising number of COVID cases in our Duluth community may result in the need to shut down high school activities, athletics, and fine arts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Our regional team (MN Department of Health, St. Louis County) may recommend shutdown if the St. Louis County bi-weekly case rate for schools for the Duluth area reaches 30 or higher for 3 weeks in a row.

The last reported bi-weekly case rate showed Duluth at 33.37. If the rate is above 30 again on October 15 and October 22 steps may be taken to shut down high school activities. To restart activities, case rates would need to be below 30 for three weeks in a row and show a downward trend in community spread. At that time the district re-start plan would be implemented in coordination with the Minnesota State High School League. Please understand that it may take time to prepare our students for competition or performances to resume.

The primary goal of our protocols and any potential temporary shutdown is to keep everyone safe and healthy. In addition, if we want to continue to provide athletics and activities to students we need to keep COVID19 levels down in our community.

We want people to be safe and we want to continue to be able to provide these activities for students. We urge you and your student to follow all COVID19 protocols on and off the field. Please encourage your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to do the same. This includes masking up, social distancing, avoiding crowds, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick.

Lead School Nurse COVID Update

From Crystal Diehl, MSN, RN, PHN

Lead School Nurse

We have made it to the MEA break! As we continue on with the school year, we have started to have cases that have impacted our district. With each of these cases, we have learned more about the process of contact tracing and quarantine. We work closely with St. Louis County Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Health to guide our follow up response.

Please check this link for the detailed COVID update.

It includes:

  • Positive Cases, Protocols
  • Bus Information
  • Planning Ahead for Potential Closure
  • New Resources from the MN Department of Health
You have been doing a fantastic job of screening your children for symptoms every morning and keeping them home when symptoms arise. This is so important and one of the best ways to help keep our schools open. We appreciate your efforts and support as we work together to keep our school community as safe as possible.

Duluth School Board Takes Next Step Toward Potential Sale of Historic Old Central

During a special meeting held October 13, 2020 the Duluth School Board unanimously approved a resolution which lays the way toward potential sale of Historic Old Central High School (HOCHS).

Read the Press Release

“This is an exciting development in the history of HOCHS and for our downtown Duluth,” said Jill Lofald, Board Chairperson. “It will allow new life to be breathed into this building and provides opportunity for the district to focus resources on education and the needs of Duluth children and families.”

The action gives district administration and the Board Chair authority to enter into and execute a final purchase agreement and other documents required for closing on a sale. Once a purchase agreement is finalized and signed more details regarding a sale would become available.

A purchase agreement allows a buyer to conduct due diligence prior to closing on a property. Due to the complexity of historic credits, opportunity zone credits and other local or regional financing options, the due diligence period could take up to a year to finalize. There would be points in the process where decisions to continue or end the agreement can happen by both the buyer and the school district.

District Administration will continue research and collaboration on plans for a possible relocation of all staff and programs currently housed in Historic Central should a sale take place.

Should a purchase agreement be finalized and signed the district will provide further detail.

A Mystery Boat from Lakewood Elementary

This story on the Duluth Public Schools Facebook page resonated with many, many people. With two posts it's generated over 6,000 shares, 4,000 reactions, 250,000 engagements, and an estimated reach of over 900,000.

News outlets also picked up the story:


WXIX-TV Cincinnati, OH

Lexington Herald Leader Lexington, KY

Kansas City Star KS

UPI.com United Press International Website

KRFO Radio Owatonna MN

Newsweek Website

mlive.com Michigan

Bring Me the News Website


Lynn BeBeau discovered this little wooden boat on a remote beach on Lake Superior along the Apostle Island Nat’l Lakeshore near Eagle Island and took these beautiful photos. Lynn and Great Lakes Ship Watcher group would like to know more about when the boat was launched.

Inscribed on the bottom of the boat:

"I am traveling to the ocean. Please put me back in the water. Will you send information on your whereabouts to: Lakewood School

Room 116 & 118 5207 N. Tischer Duluth, MN (scribbled out zip code) 53304" No date.

#Inspire709 #solveamystery

**UPDATE: Mystery Solved!** From Bonnie Fritch: "In 1993-1994 Brenda Schell and I did a unit of Paddle to the Sea. We mapped out the travels of the canoe through the Great Lakes. A friend of Brenda's made the boats for us and our classes painted them and added the message to the bottom. On our end of the year field trip for our Duluth unit we stopped at Brighton Beach to launch the boats. I am not sure what happened to Brenda's boat but mine was spotted a year later up the North Shore. The people put a second coat of varnish on the boat and relaunched it. I thought we wouldn't hear anymore about it. Amazing it is still out there."

Thank you, Lynn and Bonnie, for sharing your remarkable stories!

A beautiful evening to set up a few more outdoor classroom spaces at Lowell Elementary...

#Inspire709 #LowellLions #FreshAirClassrooms


Big picture

From Duluth KEY Zone and Duluth Family YMCA:

Lights On Afterschool - October 22

Lights On Afterschool shines a national spotlight on the importance of afterschool programs. On October 22, we will be celebrating Lights On at each of our program locations.

The Duluth YMCA is collecting change/donations for the month of October to raise youth scholarship funds for afterschool care! You can give your gift by going to www.duluthymca.org/give/ways and select YMCA Community Services.

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