ISD 709 News 10/23/20

From John Magas, Superintendent

Dear Families,

During my time in schools this week, I continue to see many inspiring efforts on the part of our teachers, staff and administrators. It is important to raise up and celebrate the positive things that we see so that they can be shared and put into practice to support each learner.

That being said, I want to be clear about something. I know that things are far from perfect. The changes in education brought about by the pandemic are a huge challenge for students, families and staff alike. If my praise for the work of our staff gives the impression that I am not understanding of, or sympathetic to, the struggles being faced, please know that’s not my intent.

The depth of these challenges, the loss of learning, the social emotional needs and stress that those in our Duluth school community are under weighs heavily on our entire team, and as superintendent, I hold myself most accountable for identifying solutions. I assure you that we are working day and night to improve our systems, seeking new and better ways of operating during the pandemic.

As we monitor the situation, we want people to be safe. We also want to be able to provide in-person instruction, as well as athletics and activities for students. We urge everyone in our Duluth community to follow all COVID19 protocols to help bring local numbers down. This includes masking up, social distancing, avoiding crowds, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick.

We are working closely with our area school districts, the City of Duluth and other municipalities, state and local health agencies and providers on efforts to be safe. We hope to create a campaign in the near future, speaking with one voice to encourage everyone in the Northland to follow COVID safety protocols. This spirit of collaboration and teamwork fills me with hope.

John Magas

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


Thank You, Duluth School Bus Drivers

It's National School Bus Safety Week, many thanks to our school bus drivers for their dedication to keeping students safe. You can help them by slowing down when you see them on the road and stopping when you see the flashing red light and stop-arm extended.

#Inspire709 #schoolheroes


Recognition and Appreciation

Crystal Diehl, RN and Joe Schingen received formal recognition from the Duluth School Board this month for their service to students, staff and families.

Ms. Diehl is our District Lead Nurse and COVID Contact. In this critical role, she has risen to the challenges and gone above and beyond in helping our school district navigate the pandemic.

Mr. Schingen is the Digital Learning Coordinator for our district. He uses his years of experience with Academic Excellence Online High School to provide training and support for teachers, students and families. He generously shares his wealth of knowledge and continues to help all of us grow in our use of digital learning platforms.

Many thanks for your service to Duluth students, schools and community!


Planning for Safety, Wellness and Student Support

From Anthony Bonds, Assistant Superintendent:

Teamwork is the backbone of strong organizations. I have the pleasure of serving with several district teams, two of which met recently.

The ISD 709 Safety Committee helps ensure our schools have plans and protocols in place supporting the safety of students and staff. They're in the process of reviewing and updating our Emergency Response Crisis Manual.

The Wellness Committee is in a similar process, working to review the current Wellness Policy and brainstorm possible health-related initiatives. They're responsible for helping create a school environment that promotes and protects student health, well-being, and ability to learn by supporting healthy eating and physical activity.

The teamwork of our principals plays a key role in student support as well. Working together, we've created an attendance campaign to improve student attendance and engagement.

We’re stronger together. I'm appreciative of the talents, abilities and teamwork within our Duluth Public schools.

Grading Procedures Update

During our emergency teaching in the spring, our regular grading practices were suspended. This month the Duluth School Board approved a return to regular grading practices with minor adjustments.

View Grading and Report Card Information

The most notable change is that students will not receive an "F" when below 60%. NC (No Credit) will be utilized during Distance and/or Hybrid learning models, replacing the traditional F letter grade. Students receiving NC will still need to take the course for a passing letter grade. An F would equate to a 0.0 in GPA calculations where NC does not impact the calculation.

If your student is struggling, please reach out to your child’s teacher.

The Minnesota Department of Education asks districts to consider the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 when assigning grading practice. Districts need to account for the complex and multifaceted ways closure of physical school buildings is a bigger obstacle for some students than others.

Grades should not be the only feedback students and families receive. Ongoing formative feedback provided through our LMS is used to communicate the knowledge and skills that students demonstrate through their learning tasks.

Elementary In-Person: Schedule Adjustment Nov 23-27

The elementary in-person schedule is being temporarily adjusted Nov 23-27 to ensure Thursday/Friday holidays are impacting in-person students in a balanced way.

During the week of October 12-16 students attending Thursday/Friday received no in-person learning due to the MEA holiday.

To help balance things out, during the week of November 23-27 only (which includes a Thursday/Friday holiday):

  • Students normally attending on Thursday/Friday will make a temporary switch and attend in-person on Monday/Tuesday.
  • Students normally attending on Monday/Tuesday will remain at home on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Thursday and Friday that week are holidays, school is not in session.

Please contact your school if you have questions, thanks for your patience and understanding.

Update: COVID Response, School Activities & Athletics

This week the St. Louis County bi-weekly case rate for schools for the Duluth area is again over 30 per 10,000, having decreased from 35.2 to 32.7 and community transmission rates over time are trending lower. The overall county number rose slightly, however, from 28.5 to 29.8.

Previously, the district shared that there was a possibility that it would have to consider pausing activities and athletics for students to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Superintendent John Magas consulted with state officials to review the numbers and discuss next steps. Based on these conversations, he has decided to keep athletics and activities open.

“We want to continue to provide these activities for students, with an eye always on safety,” said Superintendent Magas. “We’ll continue through next week and possibly beyond, and continue to track COVID local and county case rates as well as any outbreaks in our schools. We’re being careful and safe. And we’re also trying our best to safely allow for the athletics and activities that students really appreciate."

Magas asked for students, coaches and advisors to remain diligent about following COVID-19 safety protocols. He also asked for community support to help keep COVID numbers down so students can continue to participate in activities and eventually return to in-person learning.

“We urge everyone to follow COVID19 protocols on and off the field,” said Magas. “This includes masking up, social distancing, avoiding crowds, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick. We appreciate the support of our Duluth community.”

NE MN Virtual Job Fair Oct 27-29

Learn more about Duluth Public Schools job opportunities during the NE MN Virtual Job Fair Oct 27-29! A multi-industry virtual job fair where employers and job seekers can connect in the Northeast Minnesota region.


ISD 709 Job Opportunities

Click here to view a list of attending employers and colleges

ISD 709 Family COVID Web Page

This web page is for ISD 709 families and includes helpful COVID response information. It's an effort to provide information on one landing page. Is there a link you'd like to see added? Let us know at Info@ISD709.org.


Find a Return to Learn link at the top of the district home page and each school home page.

Congratulations, Denfeld Boys Soccer, Section 7A Champs

Eighth-seeded Denfeld captured the Section 7A high school boys soccer title with a 2-1 victory against host Princeton Wednesday night.

Congratulations to Keegan Chastey, finalist for the Mr. Soccer Award for Class A! The award is given to the state’s top senior players this season. Keegan racked up 19 goals and 11 assists this season.

#Inspire709 #HunterPride


Congratulations, Duluth East CC Academic Excellence, State Qualifiers

Both Duluth East Cross Country teams are being recognized for Gold Level (3.75 GPA or higher) Academic Excellence from the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association. Both teams placed 2nd at Sections and qualified for state! Congratulations to these student athletes on an incredible season.

#Inspire709 #GoHounds #StudentsFirst


Duluth East Theater Wows the Crowd

Theatergoers parked their cars in the Duluth East parking lot and watched a live stream of the production on a 45 foot screen.

The play, entitled 'The Drowning Girls,' is based on a true story about three women married to the same man, who all end up dead. The three women gather evidence against their murderous husband by reliving the shocking events that led to their deaths. A spooky story, just right for Halloween. The students performed two shows on Wednesday, a week earlier than planned due to the possibility of an activities pause due to local COVID rates.

#Inspire709 #GoHounds


Myers-Wilkins Outdoor Learning

A third grade team of ornithologists took their binoculars outside to study the fields and trees near Chester Park. Thank you, Mrs. Dols and Mrs. DeSutter, for providing this learning opportunity - and a chance to enjoy these beautiful autumn days!



Virtual Field Trip

Duluth Public Schools students took a virtual field trip this week. Artist Alison Aune provided an up-close and personal tour of her studio through Google Meet. Students asked great questions and got an inside view of the kinds of things that motivate and inspire artists. Many thanks to Ms. Aune for sharing her artwork and process!



Celebrating Afterschool Programs

Students in Duluth KEY Zone programs celebrated Lights On Afterschool with a variety of fun craft projects - like fairy lights featuring the Aerial Lift Bridge.

Launched in October 2000, Lights On Afterschool shines a national spotlight on afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities.

Duluth KEY Zone


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