October 2020

Spotlight on Success header


October 2020


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,

Patrick Murphy headshot

In what has been the most unique beginning of school in recent memory, it might be hard to believe we are almost at the quarter point of the school year. Regardless of what is going on in the world, we recognize this time of year through our senses; we see the beautiful, colorful foliage, we feel the chill in the wind when we walk on a sunny day, and perhaps we taste the difference in the meals we prepare as families as we switch from summer favorites to the comfort foods of fall. In trying times like these, I think it is especially good to be present and savor these touchstones of autumn.


The major driver of our difficulty in this moment is obvious. The novel coronavirus has shaken our foundations, altered our rituals and fundamentally changed how we deliver education. The process for that change has been an iterative one. Like a child who throws a paper airplane, observes the flight, redesigns, and folds the paper differently and tries again and again; we, too, have been tweaking and adjusting our educational model based on your feedback, our observations, and the latest guidance and directives from various agencies.


It is indisputable to me that this process, which is the way we have always learned, is adding to our stress. When you are good at something, and make no mistake about it, the Olympia School District has a long history, long before my arrival here, of providing an exemplary education to our students and families we serve; your core can be shaken when that “something” that you fashioned and honed for so long is no longer suitable to the task.


Refusing to be passive in the face of this adversity, our teachers, students, families and all staff worked tirelessly last spring and summer to plan and launch a new model of learning this year to meet the challenge of distance learning. Not surprisingly, our efforts have produced a greatly improved educational delivery system. There is predictability to the school schedule, a uniform learning management system, and innovative and creative lessons being delivered daily by dedicated staff.


And at the same time, while some are thriving, we know that learning at home is challenging and difficult for many, if not unmanageable for some. As you may know by now, thanks to the guidance from health officials that allows for small group instruction on campuses, our wonderful staff are serving many students with profound disabilities in our schools and will be able to continue to do so, even though our community transmission rates have elevated. And while the most recent information from our local health authorities indicates that we will not be adding entire grade levels of students anytime in the near future, we will likely have the ability to expand small group instruction on-site for those who continue to face heavy barriers at home.


We can only do that on-site work if we follow the health and safety protocols set out by government-authorized agencies. That is why we are sharing with our community videos and other information on the safety requirements of students and staff while on campus, which can also be found in this edition of Spotlight on Success. Even if your student is not coming on-site now, I would encourage you to view these videos and go over these materials to familiarize yourself with the safety expectations so you are better prepared when that time eventually comes. On-site services are also dependent on staff availability, and like the community we serve, we, too, have staff that are health compromised and more susceptible to serious complications should they contract the coronavirus. And while those staff continue their tremendous efforts to improve our on-line learning model, we will keep working through the process of identifying staff that are able to serve students on-site, when that is appropriate and feasible.


As we head into the colder seasons, I want to once again thank our entire Olympia School District community for their steadfastness and determination to keep improving and leading with compassion and kindness. As we have said before, our struggles now will lead to an improved tomorrow. I am confident we will get “back to better” and our response to the challenges of today will result in an enriched school district that will better serve ALL of our students and families moving forward. 



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Remember to Vote 

Remember to Vote by November 3

Ballots for the November 3, 2020 General Election have been sent to registered voters and must be mailed or dropped off in postage-free ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. Ballot drop boxes are open 24 hours a day during elections.


For a list of drop box locations in the Olympia School District, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office elections website.


If you still need to register to vote, you can do so in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day at the drive-thru voting center at South Puget Sound Community College Mottman Campus, 2011 Mottman Road S.W. in Olympia. There are currently no voter services at the Thurston County Courthouse.


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



OSD Visual Arts program


OSD Visual Arts Program Thriving During Distance Learning

This adorable collection of "Color Wheel' Giraffes" comes to us courtesy of Centennial Elementary School second-grade teacher Bryann O'Neil (and her students) in tandem with the Olympia School District Visual Arts Program.


This program provides ready-made art project kits (all materials included) for elementary teachers to distribute to their students for completion at home. These projects can be differentiated to fit the needs of every student. Some students require more time to complete an art piece, so they can pause or rewatch the accompanying instructional video as often as necessary.


Bryann had this to say about the art project kits; "This has been a much-needed outlet for students. It is helping students emotionally because they are getting to do something they love and are so incredibly proud of their work. It has allowed me to showcase their work in Schoology as a slideshow so they can feel even more proud of their work, while also appreciating the work their friends created. I have had tons of positive feedback from families."


Many thanks to OSD Visual Arts Creative Director Kirstin Holstrom for making this a possibility. Kirstin is doing her absolute best to make these kits available to as many teachers and students as possible. Like most teachers in this era of distance learning, she is absolutely swamped. We appreciate you Kirstin!



OSD Bond Refinance


Olympia School District Saves Taxpayers Nearly $30 Million

Thanks to strategic fiscal management and favorable market conditions, the Olympia School District was able to act to save taxpayers $29.8 million over the next 19 years.


The savings are the result of selling bonds approved by voters in 2016 now, instead of later in the construction cycle, and a result of refinancing bonds from 2012 now, instead of waiting until March 2022. The first step to selling/refinancing bonds is to obtain a rating from Moody’s Investors Service. In a press release, Moody’s noted OSD’s proven ability to outperform budgeted expectations and capably manage revenue and expenses to ensure stable operations.


The district timed the sale and refinance of bonds for Sept. 29, 2020 to take advantage of historically low interest rates, said Jennifer Priddy, assistant superintendent of finance and capital planning.


“These are taxes we now do not need to collect,” Priddy said. “Our taxpayers will now be able to keep this money rather than make interest payments. We are always working to be good stewards of public funds, and we are pleased to be able to provide this tax savings to our community.”


The photo above shows the Garfield Elementary School front entrance, which was part of a remodel included in the 2012 school bond.



OSD Meal Distribution program


Free meals provided for children 18 years and under

The Olympia School District offers free lunches to all children 18 and under, regardless of income or enrollment in the district.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced earlier this month that it has extended the free school meal program through the end of the 2020-21 school year.


Meals include grab-and-go lunch, and if desired breakfast for the following day, at all 11 OSD elementary schools, Jefferson Middle School, Olympia Regional Learning Academy, and five designated community sites. An interactive map, including addresses and directions for each of the meal sites, is posted on the school district website.


Children may visit any of the designated district or community meal sites; they do not need to obtain a meal from their nearest school or the school where they are enrolled. Parents/guardians may pick up a meal for each child in their household. Any enrolled student, including a student who is over 18 years old, may also pick up a meal.


Distribution is walk-up and drive-up Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., following school and public health department guidelines for social distancing and face coverings.


The district offers a choice of regular, vegetarian or gluten-free meals. There is a choice of sack lunches, or meals in disposable containers suitable for heating at home. To order gluten free meals for the school where you choose to pick up your meals, please call (360) 596-7062.


For more information about the free meal program, visit the Child Nutrition Services webpage on the Olympia School District website.



OSD Solar Power Project


OSD Collaborates with Puget Sound Energy for Solar Power Project

An array of solar panels will soon be installed at Olympia High School thanks to a partnership between the Olympia School District and Puget Sound Energy (PSE). This project is part of PSE’s Community Solar Program, which adds solar energy to the local power grid from one large location.


Community subscribers can support this solar energy project without placing solar panels on their own homes. These solar panels are scheduled to be placed at OHS at no cost to the district. This site was chosen because of the extensive roof space available, said OSD Executive Director of Operations Frank Wilson.


There are also plans to provide an informational kiosk at the high school displaying real-time data from the solar panels. The data may be used by students, teachers and visitors from throughout the district in their classroom studies.


“We are proud to partner with PSE to bring solar energy to our community and provide learning opportunities for our students,” Wilson said. “We are always looking for ways to be more earth-friendly as a district and contribute positively to our local, global and natural world.”


OHS will become the fourth Olympia School District facility to have solar panels. There are currently solar panels at Roosevelt Elementary School, Washington Middle School and Olympia Regional Learning Academy.


The photo above shows solar panels installed at Roosevelt Elementary School.



COVID-19 Health & Safety Protocols


Learn about COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols

The Olympia School District is committed to supporting learning environments that protect the health and safety of students, staff and the community.


Learn how the district has prepared its schools, support buildings and school buses to welcome students, staff and visitors in accordance with established health and safety requirements by visiting the school district website.


Resources posted on the In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage include:




Upcoming Events:


  • November 11: No School (Veterans Day)
  • November 12: OSD Board Meeting online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • November 25-27: No School (Thanksgiving Break)



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:

Michael Hart, Title IX Officer


Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)


Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)


Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator


Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness


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