OSD will start school this fall in full-time distance learning

Close up of person typing on laptop computer with notebook in the foregroundThe following message from Superintendent Patrick Murphy was emailed to all staff and families today:

Thurston County Public Health and Social Services announced today that based on current levels of COVID-19 in our community, it does not recommend school districts open for in-person learning this September. As a result, we will begin school on September 9 in a full-time distance learning model.

I, like all of you, had been urgently hoping to have our students and staff back in our schools safely this fall, so this message, while maybe not unexpected, is difficult to deliver. And, at the same time, it is likely a relief to many, especially given the rising transmission rates of the COVID-19 virus in our region and across the state. Our staff miss their students dearly and long to be with them in person again, and we know our students miss their teachers and wish to see their classmates on campus.

In a letter sent today to Thurston County school district superintendents, Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek wrote in part, “In order to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 within my jurisdiction, at this time I strongly urge and recommend all K-12 schools to remain closed to in-person general instruction for the 2020 Fall term and for districts to utilize distance learning modalities.”

As of July 1, the Health Officer shared that Thurston County had 273 confirmed cases. As of yesterday, July 29, the cumulative number of confirmed cases is 628 with a rate of 60.5 new cases per 100,000 people in our county over the past two weeks, or more than 100 cases per week. This rate of increase is significantly higher than the <25 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks which is the state target for Phase 3 counties. Dr. Abdelmalek continued, “At this time, I do not believe we can open schools for in-person learning safely.”

We cannot predict how long students will remain in full-time distance learning. This will depend on infection rates, and we will continue to rely on guidance from health and education officials to advise us when it is safe to reopen schools. When we do reopen, it will almost assuredly be in a hybrid model — a combination of in-person and distance learning. We have been planning for and preparing our schools for a hybrid model the past several months, so we will be prepared for that.

We have learned from your feedback and our experience last spring, and are developing an improved distance learning program for all of our schools that includes more structure, including schedules and more daily live interaction online. Our plan includes:

  • Learning experiences that are both synchronous (all students learning at the same time) and asynchronous (students learning without real-time interaction based on direction from their teachers).
  • Extensive staff training planned before school starts that includes best distance learning practices, equity, and social-emotional wellness.
  • A digital device for every student at all grade levels.
  • Technology training for families.

We will offer three different distance learning options so that families can choose the one that best meets their needs: Distance learning connected to their home school, i-Connect online academy, and h-Connect homeschool cooperative.

More details about our plan will be included in the report to the school board on August 3. The online Zoom meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., and meeting details and links are posted on our school district website.

While we had hoped to greet your student in person this fall, we are committed to creating the most welcoming environment and highest-quality learning experiences possible. Our work, as always, is grounded in our Student Outcomes.

Thank you for your patience, perseverance, and participation in our planning efforts. In the coming weeks we will be providing more specifics about what students and families can expect in the full-time distance learning environment. We look forward to welcoming our students to a new school year in September.

Patrick Murphy

Remember to vote in August 4 Primary Election

Red, white and blue VOTE logo with starsA reminder that Primary Election ballots must be postmarked or dropped off in postage-free ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 (Election Day) to be counted.

The Olympia School District does not have any measures or candidates on this year’s Primary Election ballot; however, the district regularly reminds voters of upcoming elections.

All Washington state elections are vote-by-mail. Ballot drop boxes are open 24 hours daily and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. For a list of drop box locations in the Olympia School District, visit the Thurston County Elections Division website.

For more information, or to learn about items included on the ballot, read the Thurston County Voters Pamphlet.

For other questions, contact the Elections Division at (360) 786-5408 or email elections@co.thurston.wa.us.




OSD staff virtual Town Halls scheduled August 5 and 6

Shallow view of Mac laptopAll district employees are invited to learn about fall 2020 school reopening plans and ask questions during staff-only virtual Town Halls scheduled next week for OSD employees.

Attendance is voluntary, and employees may choose to attend one or both of the staff Town Halls scheduled on:

  • Wednesday, August 5, 1:15 p.m. (Elementary Focus, but employees at all schools and support buildings are welcome)
  • Thursday, August 6, 1:15 p.m. (Middle and High School Focus, but employees at all schools and support buildings are welcome)

Over the past few months hundreds of district staff have been involved in the district’s plans for reopening schools this fall. Many have served on planning committees and workgroups, in partnership with students, families and community members. Some have attended multiple planning meetings to collaborate on how to safely reopen schools based on guidance from local and state health and education officials. Hundreds more employees have attended one or more of five virtual community Town Halls held over the past two weeks to invite feedback on committee recommendations. Video recordings of those community Town Hall meetings are posted on the Fall 2020 School Reopening Plans webpage on the OSD website. The webpage also contains other information and resources including reopening guidance for school districts shared by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Frequently Asked Questions, agendas and minutes from planning committees and workgroups, survey results, and the OSD Board of Directors Fall Planning Feedback.

We appreciate everyone’s time, including those who emailed their ideas and/or questions to reopeningschools@osd.wednet.edu. The two Town Halls next week are more opportunities for staff to hear about plans for fall and ask questions about a proposed reopening plan scheduled to be considered by the school board during a special meeting on August 3. The proposed plan is designed to be flexible in the event the district must transition to a different learning model due to changing COVID-19 data and guidance. The special board meeting on Monday, August 3 begins at 6:30 p.m. Board meeting Zoom links will be shared on the district website, Google Calendar and social media later this week.

The Zoom links and other information to access the OSD staff Town Halls are included in an email sent to all OSD staff on July 28.

Equity, Diversity are focus of updated OSDEF grant category

OSDEF Logo with image of stick figures of an adult and children and the name of the Foundation beneathThe Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) will begin accepting Teaching & Learning Grant Requests for the 2020-21 school year on Monday, August 3.

OSDEF remains committed to removing barriers for OSD students. To encourage more requests for programs and projects with a focus on equity, diversity and bias, the Foundation has renamed the “Building Student Character Grant” the “Cultivating Engaged Citizens Grant” and incorporated language that supports OSD Student Outcome #4.

The Cultivating Engaged Citizens Grant supports “students in their efforts to develop the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias. It also supports students seeking to understand the value of community service and advocate for improvement using natural resources in an efficient and sustainable way. This includes the development and implementation of programs that address: equity, diversity and bias; civics; philanthropy; and being good stewards of the earth. Activities funded by the grant may include: assemblies; workshops; athletics; nutrition; school beautification projects; and community service projects.”

Most OSDEF Teaching & Learning Grants can be awarded in amounts of up to $1,500. This year, grant requests will be reviewed quarterly instead of monthly. Deadlines, instructions and applications may all be found here. If you received a grant last year, you must submit a Post-Grant Report prior to applying for a grant this year.


Grackle Docs Exporting Bug

Grackle Docs is a powerful Google Docs tool that allows for the easy creation of accessible PDFs.

Recently, district staff have reported delays in receiving exported PDFs when using Grackle. Grackle is aware of this issue and has advised users to disable the “Notify by email” feature when exporting to PDF.

PDFs exported using Grackle will still appear within your Google Drive. A specific folder may also be selected when initiating the export.

More information on installing and using Grackle can be found on the district’s Website Accessibility Resources page. If you have additional accessibility tips or questions, please reach out to Robert Hardy, the district’s website accessibility specialist.

Opportunity to change some SEBB benefits ends July 31

Stethoscope with heart-shaped center designA reminder that the SEBB Program is offering a limited opportunity to make some changes to your SEBB benefits. (Normally, you would need to have a life event, like a birth or marriage, to make these changes mid-year.)

You have until July 31 to make the changes below.

  • Add an eligible dependent to your SEBB medical coverage. You must submit documents that prove your dependent’s eligibility. Dependents can be added only to medical coverage, not to dental or vision.
  • Enroll in medical coverage if you are currently enrolled only in dental and vision coverage.
  • Increase or decrease your 2020 Medical Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) or Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) election amounts.
  • Enroll in a Medical FSA or DCAP for the rest of the calendar year (if you’re eligible for these benefits).

Changes are effective on August 1, 2020. Use SEBB My Account to enroll in medical coverage or add dependents no later than July 31. If you need help with navigation, SecureAccess Washington (SAW) registration, or document uploads, call 1-855-648-3100 (select option 7) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, through July 31. Note: Because of weekly furloughs of state employees throughout the month of July, wait times may be longer than normal.

To enroll or change your Medical FSA or DCAP election, submit the SEBB COVID-19 Medical FSA & DCAP Change Form to your payroll or benefits office no later than July 31.

For details on this opportunity, visit the SEBB Program’s limited open enrollment webpage.

For questions please email help-payroll@osd.wednet.edu.

Sign up to donate blood at Pop-up Donor Center at ORLA in August

Four arms wrapped with medical tape indicating the person had donated blood. Message says Let's Give Blood

Dates: August 4, 6, 7, 11 and 12, 2020
View Event Flyer

Bloodworks Northwest will transform the main Gym at Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) into a Pop-Up Donor Center providing additional opportunities for people to give blood. First-time and repeat donors are urged to make their one-hour donation appointment today as a safe and essential action.

In accordance with current physical distancing guidelines, only scheduled appointments will be allowed. No walk-ins, guests, or people under age 16 are permitted onsite. Donors are asked to bring a mask/face covering to their donation.

Sign Up Today by following this link! You may also call 1-800-398-7888 to set up an appointment.

Flags at half-staff in memory of Rep. John Lewis

Flags lowered to half-staffPursuant to Presidential Proclamation,  Gov. Jay Inslee directs that Washington state and United States flags at all state agencies, including schools and support buildings, be lowered to half-staff in memory of Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia. Lewis passed away on July 17 from a long-standing battle with cancer.

Flags will remain at half-staff until close of business or sunset on Monday, July 20, 2020.


Memorial service planned July 18 for former OSD teacher and counselor

Pink flowers on a bush

A family member for Ken Born, a former OSD teacher and counselor, asked us to share about a memorial service for him on July 21, 2020. School district records show Born was a teacher at Garfield, Madison, Centennial and the old McKinley elementary schools. He also served as a counselor at McLane, LP Brown, and Garfield elementary schools.

The family shared this: “He was a teacher with the Olympia School District for 31 years and was Teacher of the Year in 1989-90. He passed away in May, and I think there are a lot of educators that would still remember him. The memorial is this weekend and I wanted to get it out there just in case people wanted to come.”

The memorial is at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 21 at Mills & Mills Funeral Home,  5725 Littlerock Rd. S.W., Tumwater, Washington.

View Ken Born Obituary/Memorial

Last Chance for 2019-20 Paraeducator FCS Training

Close up of person typing on laptop computer with notebook in the foregroundThe Human Resources Department has asked us to share the following with OSD paraeducators:

The Olympia School District, in partnership with ESD 113, is offering one last opportunity to complete the required 14 hours for the Paraeducator Fundamental Course of Study (FCS) for the 19/20 school year. The training will be held online via Zoom. To register for any (or all) sessions, you MUST use the following pdEnroller link:  https://www.pdenroller.org/esd113/Catalog/Event/100966. When prompted, please use the coupon code “OLY” to avoid payment for the class. This is free to all OSD Paraeducators.

Please note: you will NOT be able to search for this training in pdEnroller. All registration must be done directly through the link provided as it is exclusive to the Olympia School District. Also, please review the following schedule carefully. Some units have been divided over multiple days. You will need to complete all hours for each unit to receive credit.

See below for dates, times, and units covered during each session:

Monday July 20th: 10am-12pm
FCS11 – Communication Basics (2 hours total)

Tuesday July 21st: 10am-12pm
FCS04 – Collecting and Using Data (1 hour total)
FCS01 – Introduction to Cultural Identity and Diversity (1 hour – 4 hours total)

Wednesday July 22nd: 10am-12pm
FCS10, Positive, Safe Learning Environment (2 hours – 3 hours total)

Thursday July 23rd: 10am-12pm
FCS02 – Supporting Instruction (1 hour – 4 hours total)
FCS10 – Positive and Safe Learning Environment (1 hour – 3 hours total)

Friday July 24th: 10am-12pm
FCS02 – Supporting Instruction (2 hours – 4 hours total)

Monday July 27th: 10am-12pm
FCS02 – Supporting Instruction (1 hour – 4 hours total)
FCS01 – Introduction to Cultural Identity and Diversity (1 hour – 3 hours total)

Tuesday July 28th: 10am-12pm
FCS01 – Introduction to Cultural Identity and Diversity (2 hours – 3 hours total)

Paraeducators must complete all 14 hours of training in order to receive the $335 stipend in August.  The Human Resources Department will receive a list from the ESD of those who have completed the 14 hours.  Clock hour forms will be for the paraeduator’s records. These will be used at a later time to enter these hours in OSPI’s e-cert system toward the completion of the Paraeducator Certificate.  More information to come.