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Dear ISD 709 Families: 

   This message is to alert you that next week we will shift to distance learning at elementary level and pause in-person secondary student supports, athletics and activities through December 13. We are doing so in response to a sharp rise in Duluth and St. Louis County COVID rates that are projected to continue.

   We have also seen a recent rise in students and staff testing positive as well as those in quarantine. District administration made this determination after consulting with the Minnesota Department of Education and local health officials who recommended a shift to distance learning for several weeks.We are announcing this with as much advance notice as possible to provide families and staff time to plan and prepare. We regret the challenges that this will cause to students and families, but must do so to help avoid deeper spread within our schools and community.  

>>Wednesday November 18: in-person athletics and activities are suspended. The district’s middle and high schools are already in an academic distance learning model. 

>>Thursday November 19: elementaries will transition from hybrid to full distance learning.  

   Both elementary student groups will meet in person next week, with Group A on Monday the 16th and Group B on Tuesday the 17th. Wednesday the 18th will serve as a transitional preparation day with distance learning resuming immediately on Thursday the 19th.

   Elementary students should bring home any personal items that they may wish to use for distance learning, including paper, pencils, crayons, etc. All students will be bringing home their student workbooks. These will need to be back at school once in-person learning resumes.

   Teachers will communicate their new schedules to their families following the transition period. Please contact your child’s teacher first if you need additional support with distance learning. Special education students will continue to be served by their case managers during the transition day. 

    We are tentatively planning to return to elementary hybrid in-person learning and secondary in-person athletics, activities and supports on December 14. However, please be aware that current forecasting may not allow for this. The Department of Health has indicated if the numbers do not improve, distance learning through January 8 may be needed due to continued high rates of community spread and holiday exposures. While we are hopeful that we can return to our current model and eventually to even more in-person instruction, we want to be as transparent as possible with the community, allowing families to plan for the possible extension of distance learning if needed. 

     While in distance learning, the district will continue to provide bagged breakfast/lunches for pickup Monday through Friday when school is in session. Emergency Tier 1 childcare and KEY Zone services will continue.

     Duluth joins many other districts that have had to shift to full distance learning as infection rates increase. The district will continue to closely monitor COVID rates and consult with local and state health officials.  We are partnering with the city and neighboring districts and communities to encourage preventative measures, including mask wearing and social distancing. We all want our students back in school safely and our collective efforts can help make that a reality. 

    Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the pandemic together. 

Sincerely,

John Magas, Superintendent

Duluth Public Schools