OLYMPIA –– The Olympia Board decided Monday night in a four-hour-long meeting to move to a fully remote fall semester.
The reopening plan will be flexible as conditions and guidance change, school board members said.
Before diving into the meeting and giving out information on the reopening plans,
“None of us wanted to be talking about remote learning for our
students in the fall,” said Superintendent Patrick Murphy. “[There’s] a possibility of sports not happening in the fall. None of us wanted to talk about what's going to happen with classified staff if we're not running our classes. It's hard because it's constantly changing.”
Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek, Thurston County Health Officer, strongly recommended in a letter to the greater Thurston County community last Friday, July 31, that the school districts here begin the school year remotely with some exceptions.
“People who work and teach in our schools are diverse and at acute risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” Dr. Abdelmalek wrote. “They vary in range, have different health conditions and that can put them at higher risk.”
While children, Abdelmalek wrote, aren’t as likely to get really sick, the virus affects some children more than most.
“We have to keep in mind each person who works and learns in our schools has families they go home to and they can spread COVID-19 within their household,” Abdelmalek wrote. “Our schools are not islands. They're integrated into the very hub of our community and the rise in COVID-19 cases affect all of us, including families tending to loved ones who are sick.”
Olympia School Board members don’t have criteria yet for deciding when to transition to fully in-person instruction on campus, but said online learning will still be available once the transition occurs.
“We do not have the criteria yet or the metrics that will determine when we can transition
from a full remote session to regular in-person learning,” said Murphy. “But 100 percent remote learning will still be an option for families that aren't able to come to school once we move to a hybrid or in-person session because of their particular health risk factors.”
To keep mental health in check, the state’s guidance informs schools to create provisions for students and staff screenings. To abide by these regulations, the school district will use a new organization called Panorama and have daily check-ins through attendance, which would deliver more information on how students are doing socially and emotionally.
“We've already made some purchases with the curriculum called Character Strong
that some of our students or our schools already use,” said Murphy.
The next school board meeting is schedule for Aug. 10, 2020. School board members are expected to deliver a modified proposal that would provide more information on remote learning. This would give parents, students, and staff more information about what to expect in the next few months.
Other public school districts in Thurston County, namely Tumwater School District and North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey, also decided recently to move to an all-online, virtual model for students for the Fall 2020 semester.