Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

In-Person and Remote Learning - 2021-22 School Year


The Olympia School District is committed to supporting learning environments that protect student and staff health and safety.


Below is a list of frequently asked questions about in-person and remote learning health and safety guidelines in the 2021-22 school year. Much of the guidance is outlined in more specific detail in resources included at the end of these Qs and As.


This frequently asked questions webpage will be updated frequently, so please check back for updates. We also encourage you to email us questions you would like answered. Email your questions to



General Questions


Are all school buildings required to offer full-time in-person learning?

Yes. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Department of Health (DOH), and Gov. Jay Inslee’s Office expect all K–12 students to have the opportunity to attend school in-person full-time in the 2021–22 school year.


OSD offers full-time in-person learning five days a week in all schools  For families who want their student(s) to learn remotely, OSD has launched a Virtual Academy of Olympia.



Face Coverings


Are students, staff and visitors required to wear a face covering indoors at K-12 school facilities?

Yes, health officials have directed that all students, staff, volunteers and visitors wear face coverings indoors at K-12 facilities, regardless of vaccination status.


Will bus drivers and all passengers have to wear a face covering on the school bus?

Yes, face coverings are required for the driver and all passengers on the bus/school transport vehicle.


Will students have to wear a face covering at recess or during learning that takes place outdoors?

Currently, state guidance strongly recommends individuals wear face coverings outdoors in crowded spaces or when in close contact with people from outside their household for a sustained period of time, as the risk of COVID-19 infection increases with the duration and closeness of contact between individuals. 


Face coverings are not required outdoors, regardless of vaccination status, when students are physically distanced.


Will students have to wear a face covering during school meals?

Students may remove their face covering to eat and drink. 


Are there specific exceptions to required face coverings indoors at K-12 facilities based on age, development or disability?

Yes. Specific information is included in the Secretary of Health's Mask Order. Additionally, in some circumstances, staff may require a higher level of protection.


Must visitors and employees wear face coverings inside OSD support buildings such as the Knox 111 Administrative Center, regardless of vaccination status?

Yes. The Thurston County Health Officer has directed county residents to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.



Physical Distancing


What physical distancing requirements will be in place in school classrooms?

Schools should maintain physical distance of three feet or more between students in classroom settings to the degree possible and reasonable, that allows for full-time, in-person learning for all students.


Adults should maintain a 6-foot distance from students whenever possible.


How far apart will students be distanced during classes or activities when increased exhalation or aerosolization occurs, such as P.E. or exercise, singing or playing instruments?

Distancing should be at least 3 feet, if possible, and more if space permits. Whenever possible, these activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces.


How far apart will students be distanced during meals?

The Olympia School District meets the requirements established by the Washington State Department of Health in regards to serving meals. We maximize the distance between students to the degree possible when masks cannot be worn, such as when eating lunch. We follow the Center for Disease Controls suggestions for modifying school spaces by creating lunch schedules, arranging seating, and marking tables, desks and chairs so that students sit at least 6 feet apart to the extent possible when eating/drinking. We will continue to encourage frequent handwashing and have signs posted to promote everyday protective measures for stopping the spread of germs. Depending on available space and staffing on our campuses, along with weather conditions,  schools will offer students the opportunity to eat lunch outdoors.



Wellness Screenings


Will schools still be required to do wellness screenings for students, staff and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms?

No. Health officials have removed the requirement for formal wellness screenings for students, staff and visitors at entry to school buildings. However, parents should keep students home who are sick or symptomatic.


Staff, likewise, should not come to work when sick or symptomatic School staff should continue to be aware of their students, staff and visitors exhibiting symptoms, and follow the protocols included in the guidance for responding to someone who shows symptoms of COVID-19.


We cannot stress enough the importance of staying home when sick.



COVID-19 Vaccinations and Testing


Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required for eligible students in fall 2021?

Currently, the State Board of Health, which has the sole authority to set immunization requirements for students, has not discussed requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for children in school settings. However, we encourage vaccination among all eligible students.


Will the school district mandate vaccines for employees if unvaccinated?

Yes. On August 18, 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new directive legally requiring all K–12 school district employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination or a medical or religious exemption by October 18, 2021 as a condition of employment. The Governor’s directive means that all Olympia School District employees, contractors, volunteers and others working in school facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated or provide a valid religious or medical exemption by October 18, 2021. For more information, visit Frequently Asked Questions on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction webpage.


Is the Olympia School District participating in the Learn to Return school-based testing program?

Yes, we have been participating in the Learn to Return testing program with our ESD113 testing partnership since March 2021. We will continue to partner with ESD113 and offer drive-thru testing at the ESD113 testing site in Tumwater for staff and students.


Does the Olympia School District offer COVID-19 tests at schools?

Yes, as part of the Learn to Return program, students who qualify may access free COVID-19 rapid tests at their schools with parent/guardian permission.



The on-site testing is only available to those who experience COVID-19 symptoms while at school or have been identified as close contacts to someone with a confirmed case. This limited testing will be available as long as there are testing supplies and staff capacity.

We also offer on-site rapid testing for unvaccinated student athletes who are required by DOH to get tested twice weekly in order to be eligible to participate in high contact indoor activities.


Some key points about OSD student testing:


  • A free rapid antigen COVID-19 test (Abbott BinaxNOW) is available in school health rooms for those who qualify (see chart for testing options for vaccinated and unvaccinated students). Results from the rapid test are available in 15-30 minutes, and families will receive results from the school.
  • Parents/guardians must give permission for the testing by signing a one-time consent form before a student is tested. The “COVID Rapid Test Consent Form” is available in Skyward Family Access.
  • On-site tests are designed for students who become symptomatic at school, or are identified as close contacts while at school.
  • Students who become symptomatic at home are encouraged to get tested by their health care provider, ESD 113, or at another community testing location.
  • Anyone with symptoms, regardless of test results, will be sent home from work immediately.
  • The rapid test is a self-collected nasal swab, which the individual inserts less than one inch into the nostril. The rapid test will be observed by a trained staff member in the school health room.


Is the district offering the option of a 7-day quarantine and the Test to Stay program?

Yes. In summary, the two new voluntary testing options are:


  • 7-Day Quarantine Option: An unvaccinated student or employee who is identified as a close contact at school/work or community exposure and is asymptomatic (does not exhibit COVID symptoms) must stay home from school/work for at least 7 days and take a COVID-19 test between day 5 and 7 of the quarantine. If the test is negative, the quarantine ends on day 8 and the student or employee may return to school/work and continue to monitor for symptoms until day 14. If the test is positive, the individual must isolate at home for 10 days. View more details about the 7-day quarantine option on page 3 of the PHSS flowchart for symptomatic students and staff.
  • “Test to Stay” Program: This option applies only to an asymptomatic, unvaccinated student (not employee) identified as a close contact at school. The student may attend school if all testing criteria outlined by county health officials, including two negative COVID-19 tests (one on day 2-3, and another on day 5-7) are met. Students will be offered rapid tests at school with parent/guardian permission. Students may not attend any extracurricular activities, including sports, and other activities outside their home such as childcare or youth development groups, during this time. View more details about the Test to Stay Program for students on page 4 of the PHSS flowchart


Is there free drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Capital Region Education Service District 113 (ESD 113)?

Yes. Students and staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus may be tested for free at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site at the Capital Region Education Service District 113 (ESD 113).

The testing site is open from 8 a.m. until 12 noon weekdays at ESD 113, 6005 Tyee Dr. S.W. in Tumwater.

Note: At this time, the free drive-through testing is open only to school and ESD staff and enrolled students. It is not available to family members, or the general community. The test is recommended for ages 4 and up. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must accompany you to the test.

Pre-register online
Participants are encouraged to pre-register online before arriving at the testing site. Parents/guardians who pre-register their student online will also be asked to fill out a permission slip that allows test results to be shared with their student’s school district. This form is available at ESD 113’s website and at the testing site.


VAO and Choice Programs


My child is enrolled in an OSD Choice Program (Lincoln Options, Hansen Alternative Program (HAP), ORLA Montessori, Citizen Science Institute (CSI), or Jefferson Accelerated Math and Science (JAMS). If my student enrolls in the Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO), will their spot in the choice program be held for the 2021-22 school year or beyond?

At this time, families are being asked to commit to their choice of placement for the duration of the 2021-22 school year.


Choice programs will do their best to hold spots for students for the 2022-23 school year if space is available. Because our schools need to maintain enough enrollment to staff the classroom, they need to enroll new students when seats are open.


When requesting a different placement, please access the district transfer process by visiting the OSD website.


The VAO will partner with the district office and OSD Choice Program principals to ensure student transfer lists are maintained so it is easier to facilitate a transfer back if space is available.


If my child enrolls in the VAO, can my child transfer back to our neighborhood school?

Yes. VAO will work with you, the resident school, and the district office to ensure a smooth transition back to your resident school. Please access the district transfer process.



Student Absences or Closures due to COVID-related circumstances


How does learning continue for a student who is absent due to COVID-related circumstances?

Teachers will support students similarly to any other student absence. Given the potential for longer periods of absence that could accompany quarantining, teachers will put extra emphasis on ensuring that learning resources are up to date in Schoology and communicate with families about how to access and turn in work. Additionally, teachers may, at their discretion, provide remote, synchronous instruction to students who are absent. Synchronous instruction is when staff teach students online and in-person simultaneously.

How does learning continue if a classroom is closed to in-person learning due to COVID-related circumstances?

If an elementary classroom is closed to in-person learning, the teacher and students will revert to full-time remote instruction for the duration of the closure. If a secondary classroom is closed to in-person learning, the teacher and students will revert to remote instruction for that class only for the duration of the closure. The other class period teachers will support students similarly to any other student absence (see previous FAQ).


What factors do county health officials consider in whether to suspend in-person learning in a classroom or a school?

The Thurston County health officer has shared that health officials review six areas when considering suspension of in-person learning/activity in a classroom or school:


  • Ongoing transmission in the setting
  • Ability of the school to mitigate risk
  • Adequate staffing available
  • Capacity to trace and contact trace
  • Hospital capacity
  • Demonstrated risk (e.g. the severity of the disease, like hospitalization or fatality)



Schools may close if there is 10% or more absenteeism due to students having symptoms consistent with COVID-19.  When this occurs, the county health officer and school officials will meet and look at symptoms reported, test results, classroom distribution, etc.


How does learning continue if a school or the district is required to shift to hybrid instruction or to exclusively remote learning due to COVID-related circumstances?


In the event that the district is faced with limited available facilities, or some other COVID-19 related reason requiring the District to offer schooling in a hybrid model or exclusively remote at an entire school or districtwide; the school and/or district will revert back to the full-time remote or hybrid models that were in effect during the 2020-21 school year.

What happens if a teacher is out due to a COVID-related circumstance?

We will fill the absence with a substitute teacher who will use teacher-provided lesson plans.


Cleaning and Operations


In addition to face coverings and physical distancing, will there be other health and safety measures in place next year?

Yes. The following mandatory measures are among those that will still be in place in the 2021-22 school year: ventilation; regular cleaning and disinfecting; handwashing and respiratory etiquette; contract tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation when necessary; and processes for responding to and reporting cases of COVID-19.


View details about these and other health and safety measures in the OSD COVID-19 Pandemic Return to Work Safety Plan.


Do OSD HVAC systems pull in fresh outside air, or do the systems recycle air?

All OSD school and support building HVAC systems pull in the fresh air. The air is exchanged a minimum of 7 times per hour in compliance with the industry standard.


Is the district providing any supplemental air flow in school classrooms?

Yes, beginning in September 2021, the district placed air purifiers in classroom spaces, beginning with elementary and middle school classrooms. The next shipment of air purifiers is expected to arrive the week of September 27, 2021. These purifiers will be placed in high school classrooms.  We are fortunate to have federal and state emergency relief funds to be used for this purpose.


Importantly, our schools meet all health and safety guidance for air flow as established by health officials and Labor & Industries, without the use of air purifiers. While not required, we provided them in classrooms this fall as an extra layer of mitigation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These classroom air purifiers are in addition to those that were already in place in school health and isolation rooms.



Extracurricular Activities/Athletics


What are the requirements for face coverings in sporting activities, fitness and training, and other extracurricular activities?

The most current guidance for face coverings for indoor and outdoor sporting activities, fitness and training, and other extracurricular activities is included in the K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-22 School Year (see pages 17-20)


Are there specific types of face coverings and/or bell covers required for students participating in performing arts classes?

Yes. Details are outlined in the K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-22 School Year (see pages 15-16).


Must schools institute screening testing protocols for athletes, coaches, trainers and other personnel who work with athletes who are not fully vaccinated for them to participate in high-contact indoor sports?

Yes. Details are outlined in the K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-22 School Year (see page 19).


The K-12 COVID-19 document referenced in the three questions above also links to documents that provide detailed health and safety guidance for athletics, performing arts and other extracurricular activities.


Outside of School Activities, and Use of OSD Volunteers

Outside of school activities and the use of volunteers, as well as overnight field trips, will be significantly limited. The use of volunteers, and outside of school activities, must be approved by the Elementary or Secondary Executive Directors in advance. Volunteers will be used minimally and must meet all health department requirements.




What percent of federal grant money (ESSER funding) has already been spent? When will the remaining amount be spent and at what cadence (not allocated spent funds)? How is available funding being applied across each school?

As of August 31, 2021, OSD has spent $4,063,996 of its $17,620,430 in ESSER funds, leaving a balance of $13,556,433.84. We have spent all of ESSER I (CARES Act resources), about 40% of ESSER II funds, and none of ESSER III funds. Remaining funds will be expended in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.


The cadence for how the remaining funds will be spent is largely dependent on existing and unanticipated health mitigation and support needs caused by the Pandemic. How to spend/divide the remaining ESSER funds this year and next is expected to come before the school board for discussion in November/December 2021. ESSER funds expire with no further carryover on August 31, 2023.

Funds are distributed to schools largely in the form of staffing allocations for instructional coaches, family liaisons, nurses and counselors. The district has hired 12 instructional coaches, 12 family liaisons, 2 social workers, 6 counselors and numerous health care staff. The staff members are assigned to schools on a basis of enrollment, age of students and student income factors. The district has also deployed more teachers this year, for smaller class sizes in our typical schools, and to enroll more students in our Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO). At this time the district has planned for 11 teachers from ESSER funding. We are in the process of re-assessing this number given the significant enrollment this year in the VAO. While there are a few exceptions of class sizes at typical levels in our neighborhood elementary schools, many classrooms are 3-5 students lower than is typical. At the VAO, the district is continuing to address high enrollment by hiring and deploying additional teachers.

Grant Amount: $2,150,000
Spent as of 8/31/21: $2,150,000
Remaining Funds: $0

Grant Amount: $4,765,430
Spent as of 8/31/21: $1,913,996.16
Remaining Funds: $2,851,433.84

Grant Amount: $10,705,000
Spent as of 8/31/21: $0
Remaining Funds: $10,705,000