Spotlight on Success

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SOS Header - August 2019

August 29, 2019



Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Patrick Murphy headshotIt is hard to believe that the start of school is already upon us. If you did not know, we will be celebrating the graduating class of 2020 at the end of this academic year; 2020! As I mentioned at a Welcome Back event with all staff this week, the Class of 2020 was the incoming kindergarten class of 2007-08. Where did the time go? So much has happened in the world in those 13 years. Nothing has been more impactful perhaps than the total infusion of technology and digital connectivity.  At the same Welcome Back event, we had a guest speaker who is an expert in technology and education, and he reminded us that this current generation of students will never know a world without the internet. Being digitally connected all the time is as normal to our students as being in water is to a fish. That is not the world I grew up in, and I suspect many of our parents did not either. 

A big part of our focus this year, as we expand our one-to-one take-home Chromebooks to most of our secondary schools, is to better understand how that connectivity makes our current students’ experiences different than our own. They may often communicate differently, and experience the world in another way, but like us, and all people, our students want to feel valued and respected.

I think our school board had that in mind when they reached out to our greater community and used that input to create our Student Outcomes. They know students today are living in a different, fast-paced world that is exciting and full of promise. At the same time, all of the information coming at our students, and us, so fast and consistently can cause worry and anxiety. Stress can be good, but too much can be detrimental. 

Our Outcomes speak to the needs of educating the whole child so when they leave our system, they will have the skills and attributes that will allow them to live healthy, productive and satisfying lives. You may recall the Student Outcomes are:

Outcome 1: Be compassionate and kind.
Outcome 2:
Have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.
Outcome 3:
Advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.
Outcome 4:
Have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
Outcome 5:
Discover their passions, be curious and love learning.
Outcome 6:
Be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.

Each Outcome has an accompanying set of indictors to expound upon its meaning and how those skills will be manifested in our schools and classrooms. To see the full set of indicators, visit the district website Strategic Planning webpage.  We are committed to using these Outcomes and indicators to drive the work of the district and to inform decision making around things like budget, programming and staffing. Look for future communications on how we will be measuring these important ideals and goals.

School districts need high quality educational facilities in order to provide environments that allow us to meet high expectations like those embedded in our Student Outcomes. We are so fortunate to live and work in a community that so generously supports our district through approving bond measures to fund school improvements. Many families will see those bonds at work as there are several construction projects across the district; some just finishing and some just starting. We know the final products will be beautiful; but, we want to thank you all for your patience and understanding with all of the inevitable disruptions that come with projects like these.  

In closing, I want to encourage you to volunteer at your child’s school. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers in Olympia, and it makes a huge difference. We can always use more help to make sure every child in every school gets the support they need to reach their full potential. Sign up to volunteer on our district website

Thank you, again, and have a great 2019-20 school year!

Patrick Murphy Signature

Patrick Murphy

Olympia School District


Power Scholars Academy prepares students for school

GES Power Scholars - Student raising their handNearly 50 second and third graders participated this summer in the Power Scholars Academy — a learning experience that combines academics with hands-on enrichment activities, field trips and more. The program, in its fourth year, is designed to help students maintain over the summer what they learned during the academic year.

The summer program is hosted by the South Sound YMCA for five weeks, starting in July. Students from Olympia School District, North Thurston Public Schools and Tumwater School District participated in this impactful program.

Program Director Kacey Kimmel says she loves how the program meets the scholars where they are at and helps get them on the right track for school in the fall.

Students divided their day between an academic focus in the morning and field trips in the afternoon. Kimmel says, “Power Scholars have an emphasis an hour a day on ‘healthy scholars.’” This year, the program introduced a cooking club, with students learning a different recipe each week. Students also had the chance to take trips to a local urban farming park in Olympia. “They just loved learning about nature and the concept of urban farming. Some of the kids hadn’t even seen a zucchini before,” Kimmel said.

Mornings at the Power Scholars Academy, held at Garfield Elementary, included 90-minute sessions in English Language Arts and math, with “brain breaks” to allow the students time to expend some energy and refocus. Afternoons were filled with Intercity Transit trips to the local library and nature trail walks.

Site Manager Thomas Solenberger related a memorable moment from the summer, saying, “A mother came to me to tell me that her son had finally found a love for reading. She had tried so many different ways to try and get him to enjoy reading as much as she does, with no luck. I think that being exposed to many different kinds of books on one of our field trips to the library was very helpful for this child in particular.”

Guest speakers also occasionally visited the scholars to share about a variety of topics. This summer, students learned more about wolves at Wolf Haven International, a sanctuary for captive born and displaced wolves. Kimmel added that swim lessons at Briggs YMCA were “the highlight of our summer.” She added, “It was great to see how excited they were to swim, splashing around — and their confidence.”

Power Scholars coincides with the Summer Food Service Program offered through Olympia Parks and Recreation. Students received breakfast, snacks and lunch as part of the Academy.

The Power Scholars Academy in Olympia has been in existence for four years, hosted at Garfield Elementary School for three of those years. Solenberger says, “This year’s program was a huge success. We graduated 47 kids and saw positive improvement in academics for almost all of them.”


Work continues on several major school construction projectsConstruction work

Work continued this summer on several major school construction projects approved by voters in the 2016 school bond election. Below is a summary of some of the major projects at both the elementary and high school levels:

Capital High School 

Construction is underway on a new two-story Performing Arts Center (PAC) that will seat 500 people. The existing PAC will be converted to a lecture hall. The siding of Capital’s main building also is being replaced and portions of the school are being reroofed. Other improvements include replacing single-pane windows with double-panes, removing non-functioning in-wall heaters and adding a new air distribution system. 

Olympia High School 

Several construction projects are also underway at Olympia High School. The Main Office, for example, is under construction with the installation of a new reception window and secured vestibule. Carpeting has also been replaced this summer in existing classrooms, offices and the Performing Arts Center. This fall, work will continue on the addition of a 2,000-square-foot music room and four additional science classrooms and science prep rooms. Construction of these classroom additions will continue throughout the 2019-20 school year. Next summer, work will begin on a two-story building addition that will house 14 classrooms adjacent to the Commons. 

Centennial Elementary School 

More progress was made this summer on the Centennial Elementary modernization project. Work continued on modernizing the kitchen to make the food service system more efficient; adding a permanent stage, as well as adding new lighting and new ceilings in the multipurpose room; adding new classroom furniture throughout the school; and reconfiguring the parking lot to streamline pick up and drop-off, as well as ease traffic congestion on side streets. Rubberized tile will be added to the school playground surface this fall. The addition of a second gym was completed in spring.

McLane Elementary School 

ConstructionSimilar to Centennial, McLane construction includes a modernization of the school kitchen to make the food service system more efficient. New basketball backstops are being added, and the installation of a new heating and cooling system are among the upgrades to the gym. The multipurpose room features a permanent stage, new lighting and ceilings. Like Centennial, McLane’s parking lot is being reconfigured to ease congestion. The school playground surface has been upgraded this summer with rubberized tile.

Roosevelt Elementary School 

Work this summer included the renovation of the school’s front entry canopy to allow more daylight in, while allowing for a covered area for students and parents to stand during all of those rainy, Washington days. The parking lot is being reconfigured to ease congestion. The San Francisco Street entry has been closed to minimize congestion along that busy street. Similar to Centennial and McLane, improvements at Roosevelt include modernizing the kitchen and service area, improving the heating and cooling system in the gym, and repainting. 

District Office: Knox 111 Administrative Center

Over the summer, extensive work has continued on the new location of the Knox Administrative Center at 111 Bethel St. N.E. (former home of The Olympian newspaper). Administrative offices began moving to the new site in late July from the former location at 1113 Legion Way S.E. The move will make way for the eventual expansion of Avanti High School, which is also part of the 2016 school bond improvement projects. Plans are to hold an open house later this fall for the community once the move to Knox 111 Administrative Center and its remodel are complete.

We’re looking forward to seeing the end results of all these improvements to our schools and new administrative center.



See list of back-to-school resources

Back to schoolThe first day of school for the 2019-20 school year is Wednesday, September 4. The first day of school for kindergarten and preschool begins on Monday, September 9 (except for Lincoln Elementary. All grades at Lincoln Elementary, including kindergarten, begin on September 4).

The first day of school can be both exciting and stressful. We have put together a few resources that will make it easier for our students and parents to get the school year off to a great start! View our Back to School webpage for links to resources like school supplies, bus routes, new student registration and more.

Please visit our Child Nutrition Services webpage for questions you may have regarding Breakfast and Lunch programs, including Free and Reduced meals and applications. You may also find districtwide menu and meal information for the upcoming school year here.

We can't wait to see our students and families on September 4. Just a reminder that September 4 is a full day at school (no early release).


Summer school offers new academic opportunities

Summer SchoolNearly 150 students enrolled in summer school this year had a chance to participate in a new blended learning program. Students had the opportunity to learn in class or online, with participants only being required to come into the school building for testing. 

This type of learning was a good fit for students such as Nathan Benfield, who is starting his senior year this fall and took Algebra 2 during summer school.

“I like being able to do the work on my own time,” Nathan says. “I have a lot of chances to retake things. And it will boost my GPA, which I really like.” He says of his teacher, Amelia Young, “If I have questions, she’s always available to talk to.” He added he enjoys the freedom to ask for help when he needs it, but mostly the chance to focus on doing his work. 

“This blended learning style has really helped the students gain power in their learning,” says Principal Jane Allaire. “It brings back hope.”

Most students who attend Summer School come for credit retrieval; the opportunity to retake a class. Students also have the chance to participate in grade replacement; the opportunity for students with a passing grade to retake a class and replace their grade. “If they are satisfied with their grade, it can go on their transcript. If they get the same grade or lower, they do not have to have that reflect,” Allaire says. 
Teacher and student working together
This program has also been an excellent opportunity for English Learner (EL) students to help them get ahead for the upcoming school year. About 5 percent of the students at summer school are attending to get initial credit. “They can take the class they weren’t able to take due to life circumstances,” Allaire says. 

Colton Ramsey, a student going into tenth grade this year, says, “It gives me an opportunity to keep trying; to keep moving forward.” He is participating in the initial credit aspect of summer school. He likes the fact that he can do it at home. “It’s not required to go in every day, because I’ve got a lot of summer camps,” Colton says. Outside of the academic aspect of summer school, Colton also likes the general atmosphere. 

Sidney Pettit, a senior finishing up her coursework for graduation, enrolled in a personal finance class. “I can focus a lot more here than at regular school, she says. “I’m almost done, and it’s paying off, and I can feel it paying off.” When asked what she hopes to do after graduating, she said she plans to take a break to decide what to study. She is interested in AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. In the meantime, she is looking forward to getting a full-time job. 

Allaire says of the blended learning program: “The students technically only need to be here for tests, or if they need support.” She continues: “It’s been great for students with anxiety, or travel challenges, or medical conditions.” 

She added, “We had a kid who should have been a senior last year, but he got whooping cough and was out of class for about two months. Because he was sick, he wasn’t able to keep up on his studies. He came here, did his classes and in two weeks was a graduate.” 


Register for fall sports with new online process

Football PracticeRegistering students for athletics is now easier than ever. The Olympia School District has partnered with FamilyID, a secure online registration platform that is a user-friendly way to register students for middle and high school sports.

When a family registers through FamilyID, the system keeps track of the information in a FamilyID profile. This allows information to be entered one time for multiple seasons, multiple family members and multiple programs.

Fall 2019 sports clearance started online for all middle and high school students on August 14. To register for fall sports, please visit the Sports Clearance Process webpage on each of the four middle school and two comprehensive high school websites. Direct links to those pages, which include instructions for completing the online sports clearance process, are below:

For more information, visit the Olympia School District website Sports Clearance Process webpage.


Register to vote for November General Election

Voter Registration Thurston County residents may register to vote online, by mail or in-person at the Thurston County Auditor’s Office for the November 5, 2019 General Election.

There are three Olympia School Board seats on this election ballot. There are two candidates vying for the District 1 seat: Maria Flores and Heath Howerton.

There are two other board seats that will be on the November General Election ballot. The candidates for both of those seats are running unopposed. Justin McKaughan is vying for the District 2 seat that will be vacated by Director Joellen Wilhelm, and Hilary Seidel is running for re-election to the District 4 position, which she has held the past two years.

The last day to file a write-in candidacy with no filing fee is October 18, 2019. Military ballots will be mailed on September 20, and local ballots will be mailed October 16.

Following are voter registration deadlines for the upcoming General Election:

  • October 28, 2019: Deadline to register to vote online, by mail or by voter registration drive. Note: Online voter registration services across the state will be unavailable from Thursday, August 30 through Monday, September 3 as part of a Department of Licensing database upgrade. Online voter registration resumes on September 4. 
  • November 5, 2019: You may register to vote in person and update your voter registration address up until 8 p.m. on Election Day November 5. In-person voter registration is done at the Thurston County Elections Division, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. S.W., Bldg. 1, Rm. 118 in Olympia.

To register to vote you must be:

  • A citizen of the United States.
  • Residing at your current address for a minimum of 30 days before Election Day.
  • A legal resident of Washington state.
  • At least 18 years old by Election Day.

For additional voter registration information, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Elections Division webpage.


Upcoming Events

  • September 2 - Labor Day
  • September 4 - First Day of School (Full Day - No Early Release)
  • September 9 - First Day of Preschool & Kindergarten*
  • September 9 - Board Meeting at Knox 1113 Legion Way SE at 6:30 p.m.
  • September 17 - Constitution Day
  • September 23 - Board Meeting at Madison ES at 6:30 p.m.
  • September 24 - Parenting Workshop: Managing Your Parental Response (MS/HS) at Olympia Regional Learning Academy at 6:30 p.m.

*All grades at Lincoln Elementary begin September 4


OSD Notice of Nondiscrimination

The Olympia School District will provide equal educational opportunity and treatment for all students in all aspects of the academic and activities program without discrimination based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, honorably-discharged veteran or military status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. The district will provide equal access to school facilities to the Boy Scouts of America and all other designated youth groups listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society. District programs will be free from sexual harassment. Auxiliary aids and services will be provided upon request to individuals with disabilities.

The Olympia School District offers many Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs/courses in the following areas: Skilled and Technical Sciences/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); Agriculture/Natural Resources; Business Marketing; Family and Consumer Sciences; and Health Sciences. For more information about CTE course offerings and admissions criteria, contact Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506, (360) 596-6102. Lack of English language proficiency will not be a barrier to admission and participation in CTE programs.

The following people have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies, reports of alleged sexual harassment, concerns about compliance, and/or grievance procedures:

All five individuals may also be contacted at 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA, 98506.