Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions - In-Person and Remote Learning


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


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



Plans to Date (updated April 16, 2021)


What are your current plans for reopening schools in the 2020-21 school year?


Elementary, middle and high school students currently attending hybrid in-person learning two days a week will attend school in person four days a week starting on Monday, May 3, provided COVID-19 transmission rates continue to support additional students on campus.

Effectively, the number of students on school campuses will double when the district combines two cohort student groups (Groups A and B) that have been meeting for in-person learning two separate days each week.

The ability to combine the two groups and move to four days a week of in-person learning is possible since the state recently adopted the new federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for schools. Health officials recently decreased separation between students to at least 3 feet (reduced from 6 feet), which allows for more students to be present in the classroom and thus increase the number of days in-person students can attend each week.

Students learning in-person will attend school on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will continue to be remote learning days. Depending on the school and/or grade level, this day may include time set aside for student advisory groups, social-emotional learning, elementary specialists, and staff professional learning communities.

School start and end times will remain the same in all grade levels. Full-time distance learning will continue for families that have chosen to have their students learn remotely.

Specifics about the shift to four days of in-person learning, including information for families who wish to switch from full-time remote to in-person learning, are included in an email sent to all OSD families on April 16. A copy of that message is included on the "Messaging to Families" webpage.

The expansion to four days a week of in-person learning will follow several months of hybrid in-person learning in which students have attended school on campus two days a week and spent other days learning remotely.

In-person hybrid learning expanded on March 29 to include grades 10, 11 and 12. This completed the district's transition to hybrid learning for all grade levels, preschool through grade 12.

The grade levels above followed the transition to hybrid in-person learning for grades 7, 8 and 9 on March 22; grade 6 on March 15; grades 3, 4 and 5 on March 8; grades 1 and 2 on February 22; and preschool and kindergarten on February 1.


Learn more about safety/mitigation protocols, attendance, protocol for lunch and/or recess, grading, and sample elementary and secondary remote and hybrid learning schedules in a Hybrid Learning Plan 1.0 document. This document will be updated to reflect any future changes in local or state guidance pertaining to in-person learning.


The Olympia School District has also produced two COVID-19 training videos for families:



Hybrid Learning Model (General Questions and Answers, newest posts at the top of each section)


Now that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has revised its physical distancing recommendation to reflect at least 3 feet between students in classrooms (varies depending on grade level based on COVID-19 community transmission levels) and has also provided clearer guidance when a greater physical distance is recommended, do OSD schools have the capacity to return students to full-time on-site learning?

The latest CDC guidance updated on March 19, 2021 is welcome news, as our goal is to return students to the classroom more often and in greater numbers. We are currently reviewing the specifics in the latest CDC update, working with our union leaders, and are waiting to hear from our local and state health and education leaders on this most recent change to the physical distancing requirement in schools. Aside from classroom capacity, the latest CDC guidance has specific requirements around distance between students when eating; distance between students during activities when increased exhalation occurs; distance between adults, and between adults and students; and distance between cohorts (groups/classes of students).


Are you still basing your decisions on the return to in-person learning on the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Health Officer’s guidance?

Yes, from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thurston County Superintendents have worked with our partners at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) on the safest way to move forward with a return to in-person learning and will continue to do so. At the end of the day, the county health officer has the authority to close schools if the belief is they cannot be run safely, so it behooves us to work together.


Will students be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine to return to in-person learning?

At this time, OSD students are not required to have a COVID-19 vaccine to return to in-person learning. All three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) are emergency-approved vaccines that currently are not available to most elementary, middle and high school students. State law determines what vaccines are mandatory for admission to school, as well as what exemptions are permissible. The State Board of Health (SBOH) approved changes to Chapter 246-105 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) concerning school and child care immunization policy, effective August 1 2020. These rules apply to all public and private schools and licensed child care centers in Washington State.


How many days do students attend school in person in the Hybrid Model?

In the hybrid model approved by the school board in August 2020, students attend school on two alternating days each week, with three days of remote learning. Cohort A students attend on Monday and Thursday, and Cohort B students attend on Tuesday and Friday.


Do families have an option to continue full-time distance learning if they do not feel safe sending their kids to in-person learning, such as if they have older parents, or older or high-risk family members at home?

Yes. We provide a robust and engaging online learning option for any family/student who needs or wants it.


In a hybrid model, where half of the students attend on alternating days, how will students be grouped? Will students in the same family be grouped together?

Our priority is to group students from the same family, regardless of the grade they attend, on the same day.

Why are you recommending alternating days for a hybrid model and not have students attend two days in a row?

Many educators and parents expressed concern with the continuity of learning if students attended school on two consecutive days and were away from in-person learning for five days in a row. District school reopening survey results also showed more of an interest overall in alternating rather than consecutive days.


How will school assemblies work?

In-person school assemblies will be unlikely in the near future due to physical distancing guidelines established by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 


When will students know their teacher/class when we shift to the hybrid model?

We will give families several days notice about their assigned teacher in the hybrid learning model.


Will before- and after-school child care be provided at the school if my student participates in the Hybrid Learning Model?

Please check with your school about child care options. Child care agencies must have enough children enrolled to support state staffing requirements in order for the program to be viable.

My student attends ORLA Montessori. If I choose hybrid or distance learning, is there a chance my student will lose their slot in the ORLA program?

No, students will not lose their slots in ORLA Montessori or other district optional programs due to necessary changes this school year to meet unique staffing challenges.


Secondary Hybrid Learning Model


How are middle and high school students learning while in a hybrid model?

Answer: The secondary hybrid schedule will have a daily schedule where half the day, (the morning), is remote for all students and the other half of the day, (the afternoon), is for in-person learning for those students whose families choose that option.  All students will have three synchronous class periods per week with their teacher. Two will be remote class periods on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday mornings. In-person students will have one other in-person class period per week with their teacher on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday afternoons. Wednesday office hours will be dedicated to remote only-students to ensure that any material covered with in-person students is also accessible to full-time remote students. (See sample schedule in Hybrid Learning Plan 1.0)


Can new subject matter be taught during the hybrid in-person afternoon learning sessions?

Teachers can teach new content, as well as provide academic support, and social emotional support, during in-person learning.


Will students have less contact time with their regular classroom teachers in the hybrid model?

In general, students will have the same amount of contact time as they did in the distance learning schedule (see table below)

Scheduled Minutes Per Week with Teacher


Middle School

High School

Full-time Distance Learning (September 2020 through February 2021) 120 minutes per week) 180 minutes per week)
Hybrid Model (March 2021)

150 minutes per week (In-person students)

130 minutes per week (remote only)

150 minutes per week (In-person students)

130 minutes per week (remote only)


How come students are only coming on campus for half a day?

Secondary students have 6 teachers per day. Because of this, it is extremely difficult to pair up students from families that prefer hybrid or continued remote learning with staff that are able to provide those distinct services. So, unlike elementary school, at the secondary level, our schedule will have teachers providing both remote and in-person services to students. In order to provide higher quality learning experiences, we’ve kept these modes of instruction discrete and separate.


If teachers are instructing remotely and my child is an in-person learner, how will she/he receive instruction?

Teachers who are unable to be on-site for in-person hybrid learning will provide instruction and support remotely over Zoom to students in Cohort A and B in the afternoons on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Cohort students will be assigned a space in school that will be supervised by an adult.


Why are students coming into the school for in-person learning while their teacher is teaching remotely?

Some of our teachers and staff have individual circumstances around health and safety, or their household, that has resulted in their request for an alternative work assignment.


Will they have the same teacher that they currently have in person?



What is the difference between Synchronous and Asynchronous learning?

Synchronous learning refers to types of learning where the instruction and learning occur at the same time. This includes in-person classes and live online classes. Asynchronous learning does not require real-time interaction between the teacher and student.


Face Coverings


Will students be required to wear face coverings on the bus and at school?

Yes. DOH requires students in a school building or on a school bus wear a face covering. Additionally, all staff, volunteers and guests must wear face coverings in K-12 settings. Specific exemptions are identified in a 55-page “Reopening Washington Schools 2020 - District Planning Guide” released in June 2020 by OSPI (specific exemptions for facial coverings are addressed on page 20 and page 26 of the OSPI guidance). State Superintendent Chris Reykdal also addressed questions about face coverings in a two-page “Reopening Washington Schools: Questions & Answers for School Districts” document released on June 24, 2020.


What is a cloth face covering?

According to DOH, a cloth face covering is fabric that covers the nose and mouth. It can be:


  • A sewn mask secured with ties or straps around the head or behind the ears.
  • Multiple layers of fabric tied around a person’s head.
  • Made from a variety of materials, such as fleece, cotton or linen.
  • Factory-made or made from household items.


Will the district provide face coverings to students?

Students will be encouraged to bring their own face covering to school; however, the district has ordered enough reusable (washable) face coverings to make sure each student has one. Families unable to wash the mask at home should contact their child’s school to make alternate arrangements.


View face covering resources and tips for students


Physical Distancing


How will you ensure six-foot distancing?

The guidelines from the state schools superintendent (OSPI) are to maintain 6-foot distance as much as possible. Student desks will be spaced so students sit six feet apart, and interactions closer than six feet will be limited. The state guidelines note that passing briefly in a hallway, especially when everyone is wearing a mask, is low risk. Page 18 of the guidance states, “Rearrange student desks to maximize the space between students. Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other) to reduce transmission caused from virus-containing droplets (e.g., from talking, coughing, sneezing).


What about physical distancing on a school bus?

OSPI has provided guidance on Transportation as part of its 55-page report issued in June. The report states on page 20 that Bus Transportation Principles for COVID prevention within school transportation are:


  • Maximize outside air and keep windows open as much as possible
  • Encourage walking, biking, or being driven by caregivers as much as possible
  • Riders must wear a cloth face covering. Drivers and other staff on the bus must wear disposable masks.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Keep riders as far apart as possible on the bus


How will you respond to a confirmed case of COVID-19 (student or staff member)?

We have a COVID-19 Response Protocol that was emailed to all families and staff on September 8, 2020. We have posted the information from that email as a COVID-19 Response Protocol link from this webpage.



Cleaning and Operations


How will schools be cleaned?

The district will follow the cleaning protocol outlined in the OSPI guidance, which is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Learn more about the details of the cleaning directive on pages 21-23 of the OSPI guidance document. Additional information, including details about cleaning supplies used, is outlined in the OSD Custodial COVID-19 Response Information document.


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 fresh air. The air is exchanged a minimum of 7 times per hour in compliance with the industry standard.



Health Screenings/Attestations


Do all students and staff members need to be screened for illness each day?

Yes. Both DOH and the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) require students and staff to receive a health screening before entering a school. DOH and L&I follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which allows for health screening to be performed at home before school or on-site.


To ensure the well-being of students and staff, please remember that we expect our parents/guardians to screen their student’s health daily before the student boards the school bus and/or arrives at school for on-site learning or activities.

We also ask parents/guardians to complete a form in Skyward Family Access when their student first starts on-site learning/activities, and again at the start of each month thereafter, that attests they will complete this daily wellness screening, including checking the student for symptoms of COVID-19.

While in the past we asked families to complete this attestation form daily for students attending school on-site, beginning Monday, February 1, we will require it be submitted at the start of each month. The form can be accessed in Skyward Family Access via a computer or mobile phone app.



In addition to the family’s daily health screening, each student will also have their temperature checked and be observed for symptoms upon entry at all OSD schools daily. Students who don’t pass the school’s daily symptom screening will be isolated and sent home.

Thank you for your cooperation in adhering to this important daily screening and monthly attestation process.


Are temperature checks a required element of screening?

Yes. The state states in its guidance, “Whatever screening methodologies are used by a school district, they must include a temperature check in either the attestation or the on-site screening.”



Child Nutrition Services


How will school meals be handled in a hybrid model?

Students eat lunch in the gym and/or multipurpose room (depending on schedules and the school), outside (weather permitting), or in classroom pods. School meals are Grab-and-Go style and are free to children 18 years and under.



Extracurricular Activities/Athletics


Will students be able to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities?

The WIAA has altered the athletic seasons for the 2020-21 school year. View the tentative WIAA Sports Season Calendar, or visit the school district website Athletics Department webpage for the latest information about the WIAA process for returning to sports and activities.




How will we support students who need devices and Internet access?

We will continue to distribute digital devices and Wi-Fi hotspots to students who need them. To request a Chromebook or Wi-fi hotspot, contact the district Technology Department at (360) 596-8530.


Educational Programs


Will New Market Skills Center in Tumwater School District still be an option for OSD students?

Yes, New Market Skills Center intends to continue to provide programming. For more information, visit the New Market Skills Center website.

Distance Learning Model


Will every student have a computer device? And what if we don't have Wi-Fi?

Yes. Our Technology department is distributing Chromebooks to all students who will be enrolled in the Olympia School District in the 2020-21 school year. If you don't have Internet access at home, call the OSD family technical support line at (360) 596-8530 and staff can assist in providing a Wi-Fi hotspot to borrow for the year.


How will music, band, orchestra and choir work?

The district music coordinator is working with music teachers around the district to determine how each of the music classes will operate. In a full-time distance learning model, video conferencing will be used to teach music classes. In a hybrid model, adjustments will be made to assure that safety precautions are followed.


Some classes make less sense online. Will students have ample opportunity to re-register now that we know at least some of the school year will be online?

We encourage anyone who wants to make a change to their class schedule to contact their school counselor.


Will attendance be taken for remote learning? Some students want to be able to work more hours at their jobs if there is no school.

Yes, attendance will be taken. Details will be sent by each school.


Will families who choose the remote option need to sign up for iConnect or will their children be automatically enrolled?

In most cases, children will be automatically enrolled in 100% distance learning at their neighborhood school (or school they were previously attending). Enrolling a student in iConnect is no different than in the past. For more information about iConnect, please visit the ORLA webpage and/or contact the school directly.


Background (work completed over Summer 2020 to prepare for the new school year


Two planning committees -- one to address academics and another to address operations -- began meeting in May to discuss how schools might operate this fall. The committees, made up of OSD staff, students, families and community members, based their discussions on the safety and health guidelines established by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Washington State Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Committee members discussed different hybrid (combination of in-school and remote learning) models, based on a variety of factors including physical space in our schools. 


The committees finished their work in early July, and their recommendations were shared at a series of Virtual Town Halls in July. All of the committee work, including meeting agendas, summaries, and membership rosters, are posted on the Workgroups webpage linked from the In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage.


Given that there is not space in classrooms to accommodate all students in our schools while adhering to the state’s health and safety physical distancing guidelines, the following are committee recommendations for reopening schools that were shared with students, staff, families and community members for feedback during five virtual Town Halls in July (these recommendations were prior to the July 30, 2020 decision to begin the school year in full-time distance learning. We are including them here since the information will be pertinent when the district is able to shift to a hybrid model:


  • Implement a hybrid learning model. In this model, students would:
    • Attend school in person two days a week on alternating days. Students districtwide would be divided into two groups, with half attending school in person on any one day. The hybrid schedule will allow for fewer students in the building at a time, making it possible to maintain 6-foot physical distancing and meet other state health and safety requirements.
    • Learn remotely on the three days of the week they are not in school. With half of the students attending in person two days and the other half attending in person two other days, that leaves one day where all students would do remote learning.
  • Offer families the option to enroll their students in a full-time OSD online distance learning model (not attending school in person).
  • Have all schools districtwide use one learning platform — “Schoology.” The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recommends that school districts have one learning platform, and we also heard this request from many parents who filled out our recent district surveys. Schoology is a Learning Management System (LMS) currently used extensively in our middle and high schools. This is how teachers communicate assignments and other work with students.
  • Professional Development for staff. Using a Racial Equity/Culturally responsiveness lens, staff will be trained on 1) Best Practices for online learning and hybrid models, 2) In-person video conferencing, 3) Front-loading activities/resources/projects, 4) Social-Emotional Supports/Trauma-Informed Practices, and 5) Balancing Social-Emotional Learning and Academics to better ensure uniform expectations for students and families across classrooms and schools.
  • Offer training and supports for families. Families would receive help, for example, with understanding the Schoology learning platform used by their children’s teachers; in-person safe return to school protocols; at-home learning supports such as time management, organization and motivation; and social-emotional support.


As this work was continuing, including gathering feedback in virtual town halls, eight workgroups made up of staff, families, students and community members met about topics related to plans to reopen schools.


View information about the workgroups, including agendas and meeting summaries


The district also spent this time carefully reviewing guidance from local and state health and education officials, as well as meeting with bargaining partners. Combined, this information helped inform the plan submitted to the school board on August 3, 2020. That plan was subsequently submitted to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). All school districts statewide were required to submit a fall 2020 school reopening plan to OSPI within two weeks of the start of the 2020-21 school year.


In submitting the plan, the district remains flexible in its plans going forward and will adjust the plan as necessary based on changes to guidance from local and state health and education officials.