Hybrid learning update at Olympia School District board meeting

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The Olympia School District board met for a regular board meeting on last night via Zoom. Superintendent Patrick Murphy provided the board and the public with extensive updates concerning hybrid learning and as usual, the public had a lot of opinions.

Hybrid Learning Update

During his report, Superintendent Patrick Murphy addressed many previous community comments and concerns regarding returning students back to schools and the stress of repeatedly changing school schedules.

“I estimate that by mid-March, we will have the approval and the numbers to start bringing back middle school and high school students. We said we would really concentrate on elementary schools in February and secondary schools in March, and I believe that we will maintain that schedule. We plan on bringing back first and second grade next, starting on February 22. What we are working on for the secondary schedule is keeping kids with their teachers regardless of modality and teacher circumstances,” said Murphy.

The superintendent also spoke about his hope of having free COVID-19 testing available to the district and surrounding areas in about two weeks. One location will be at the Educational Service District 113 building on Littlerock Road in Tumwater; the other will be in Rochester. This district is also considering making a mobile testing unit available for students and staff on-site at schools as well.

“The district continues to partner with many organizations, like Safeway, Albertsons, Kaiser Permanente and other local pharmacies to offer vaccinations for teachers when that supply is available. This really is a supply-and-demand situation,” said Murphy.

In addition, it was also announced that families and community members of athletes will now be able to live stream sporting events via a subscription service. Cameras are currently being installed to support this service and it will be up and running soon.

Public Comments

During the public comment portion of the evening, there were many people signed up to speak about their concerns on getting special education students what they need during this rocky time. Among those was concerned parent Dawn Dalebout who shared her son’s experiences and her opinions with the board. “Olympia School District is prioritizing the needs of typically developing students over the needs of special education students. This is a systematic program that needs to be addressed.”

“Children who have autism, like my son, thrive and succeed with routine. Think for a moment about these children and how these little changes you make constantly affect them and their daily lives. To find out on such short notice that he will not have school on Wednesdays and numerous changes to the bus transportation schedule is devastating to him. I’m confused and my child is confused. The district needs to get their stuff together and really get parents, especially parents of students with disabilities, involved,” said Dalebout.

Olympia Labor Council representative, Lucas Claussen, spoke to the board about some of the unintended consequences related to the recent rollout of hybrid learning for Kindergarten and Preschool students

“The Olympia Labor Council is the labor union that represents Olympia paraeducators, staff, and teachers. We would like to address concerns over transportation and the expansion of hybrid learning. Because of the transportation needed to roll out hybrid learning for Preschool and Kindergarten, we hope that as the district rolls out hybrid learning for other grades, you consider looking at this issue with an equity lens. We stand with students and staff in addressing these disparities,” said Claussen.

Financial Update

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Priddy, also provided the board with a short update on two major financial issues the district will be facing as a result of virtual learning. The first was a four percent reduction in enrollment this year, resulting in a six million dollar reduction in funding formulas for the following year. The second, a transportation shortage due to the decreased riders during virtual learning, which will result in a $1.1 million loss in funding the following year.

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