June 30, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It seems fitting that we ended this school year with yet another unprecedented occurrence; a heat wave like no other. As the marine layer returned this week, and brought welcome breezes and cooler temperatures, we all could breathe a little easier as our more normal, temperate Northwest weather returned. Likewise, as our vaccination efforts across the region have taken hold and our COVID numbers have dramatically decreased, we are seeing the lifting of restrictions, a cautious sigh of relief, and the anticipation of next school year with full-time in-person learning, five days a week.


Much work has gone into the start of school next year, which includes an infusion of additional staff and supports in our schools to respond to the needs of our students after a year filled with so much change and uncertainty. If you have not seen our Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan, I would encourage you to do so as it spells out in detail our efforts to “get back to better.” While we expect the overwhelming majority of our families to choose in-person schooling at their neighborhood school, some may prefer to remain virtual. Subsequently we have created the Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO) for those families that may choose to continue remotely. More information is posted on the VAO webpage. In addition, next year will mark a change in our school start and end times, so that our adolescent students have school hours that align with the research on teens and sleep patterns. This change affects all schools — elementary, middle and high.


Finally, I want to again congratulate the Class of 2021. As stated previously, your class, in many ways, was most impacted by the pandemic and your resilience, compassion and creativity inspired us all. Whether you are an Avanti Bulldog, a Capital Cougar, an ORLA Orca, an Olympia Bear or a graduate from the Transition Program; we could not be more proud of each one of you. As was stated at our ceremonies, we cannot wait to see how you all will collectively change the world for good and know that, wherever you go, you will always be able to call Olympia home.



Patrick Murphy



May 28, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It seems we say this every May, but it is particularly true this year, that it is hard to believe we are coming to the end of the school year. It goes without saying that this school year has been one of the most challenging we have faced, but we are coming out of it stronger and better positioned to serve all of our students and families going forward.


Our school board just approved our reopening plan for the 2021-22 school year. Thanks to an infusion of federal support dollars, we are enhancing our staffing and supports in our schools to better ensure both the academic success and the health and well-being of our amazing students. I want to again thank everyone who contributed to the creation of that plan through participating in focus groups, completing surveys and giving feedback to the district.


Next year we look forward to getting back to full-time in-person learning, five days a week. At the same time, we are excited to apply what we have learned during this past year as we launch a Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO) for those families that may choose to have their students continue to learn remotely. More information will be coming out about the VAO soon.


Finally, this is the time of year that we celebrate our graduates. The Class of 2021 will go down in history as the one that took on the brunt of COVID-19. The resilience, grit, compassion and commitment that they have honed over these last 15 months will serve them well in whatever post-secondary endeavors they choose to pursue. I love the fact that we will be resuming some of our cherished traditions like having our seniors visit their elementary schools before graduation. Graduation is a time to celebrate not only our seniors, but also to recognize all who have supported them in their journey: parents, families, relatives, friends, and former teachers and staff. So congratulations Class of ’21, and my heartfelt thanks and admiration to all of you who have nurtured and taught them along the way.



Patrick Murphy



April 30, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we head into the last quarter of what has certainly been one of the most challenging years we have ever faced in public education, there are reasons for optimism moving forward. And at the same time, many questions and concerns remain. I have included information below that will hopefully shed light on some of those future questions and concerns.


Combining Cohorts/In-Person Schooling 4 Days a Week

As mentioned in earlier communications, the faster than previously expected rollout of the vaccines and subsequent changes to school guidance (3-foot distancing instead of 6-foot for students) resulted in our recent announcement that beginning this Monday, May 3, we will be combining cohorts at all grade levels and offering in-person learning four days a week for families that choose that option. Given the complexity of the elementary school model (separate remote teachers for remote students), we said it may take until May 10 to get all elementary families who had previously chosen remote-only back to an in-person classroom if they changed their minds. Our elementary team is still working through that process but have made solid progress and will have placements completed for all students and families by that timeline.


Middle and high school teachers have kept their same students, regardless if they were in-person or remote, so accommodating families that have changed their minds has been much easier to manage. Contact your school if you need help in this area.


In-Person Schooling if Thurston County Changes Phases

Middle and high schools have another distinction from elementary in that they fall under different health metrics when determining what level of in-person schooling is recommended. In regards to community transmission of COVID-19, the elementary threshold to combine cohorts is greater than 350 cases per 100,000 residents. However, for schools that serve older students in middle and high school, the threshold is greater than 200 cases. When the governor made his announcement to allow closer proximity in our schools, our case rate in Thurston County was close to 80 cases per 100,000. This week, it is edging closer to that line of 200 cases. Transmission rates is one of a few metrics that our health officials monitor. Others include hospitalizations and positivity rates. I, and other county superintendents, meet with our county health officials weekly. We expect to have protocols from county health officials this weekend that will stipulate how the county will respond to and guide school districts if and when we get to 200 cases. We will share that information when we have it.  In the interim, as stated above, we are moving forward with combining cohorts and 4 days a week of in-person schooling starting this Monday, May 3.


Student Vaccinations

You will see an article in this edition of Spotlight on Success that announces we will be hosting COVID-19 student vaccination clinics. We have partnered with a state-approved vaccine provider to hold Pfizer vaccine clinics for students who are 16 years or older. Like with adults, vaccinations provide a critical extra layer of protection in our fight to stamp out COVID. While our staff have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, Thurston County as a whole has a lower community vaccination rate than many in Washington State. Improving our vaccination rate, along with following safety protocols, will help in our efforts to open our schools up more fully to serve students in-person more frequently.


County health officials have shared that a vaccine for students 12 and older could be available as soon as the end of May. We will keep you posted on that.


Fall 2021 Start Times

Prior to school building closures due to pandemic in March 2020, the school board heard from a citizen’s advisory committee that had been meeting and researching for about a year on the feasibility of moving secondary (high school and middle school) start times later. The work of that committee and the results of two separate community surveys can be found on the district website. Starting school later for adolescents aligns with a growing body of research around sleep patterns for teens and is in effect in many districts across our state and nation. Our school board unanimously endorsed the recommendation to move secondary start times later in the fall of 2021. Interestingly, we have had a little bit of a test run with this change this year as our current hybrid schedule has elementary schools starting earlier between 8 and 8:45 a.m., and secondary schools starting after 9:30 a.m. At our last board meeting in May we will be presenting new proposed start times for schools for the fall of 2021. Our goal is to have no school start before 8 a.m. and none later than 9:30 a.m.  Look for more information prior to the May 27 board meeting.


2021-22 Budget/Staffing

Lastly, you will see an article in this edition of Spotlight on Success encouraging our community to let us know their thoughts for next year’s budget. For the first time in many years, we have the opportunity to enhance and augment staffing and supports in our schools as a result of federal dollars for pandemic response. We want to use these resources wisely in our efforts to “get back to better.” So thank you for filling out the budget survey by the May 7 deadline.


With Gratitude,

Patrick Murphy



March 26, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Yesterday marked a major, hopeful milestone in our long struggle against COVID-19 and its distressing impact on our education system. Gov. Jay Inslee, with the Washington State Department of Health, announced that our state is adopting the new federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for schools. There are many pieces to that guidance, but the most impactful is the reduction of the physical distancing requirements between students from at least 6 feet to at least 3 feet. This is particularly significant, because the 6-foot rule was the single greatest contributing factor that made it necessary to operate in-person schooling in a hybrid model with considerably less students attending each day. Classroom capacity was greatly constricted under the old CDC guidance, and this will free up space dramatically.


The governor said that school districts can choose to operate their schools under this new guidance immediately this spring, but it will be required and expected in the fall for all districts to return to full-time in-person schooling.


This change, coupled with the recent prioritization of school employees for COVID-19 vaccinations, has provided a boost of optimism that we have sought for many months. This good news allows us to take another big step toward a return to 5 days a week of schooling, every day, all day, for those families that choose it.


And, at the same time, this guidance does not mean that school will look like it did before the pandemic; not yet. There will still be 6-foot distance requirements between adults, and between adults and students in our schools. Masks will still be required for all, and 6-foot distancing will be required in places where masks cannot be worn — like lunchrooms, and in all common areas like lobbies, hallways and auditoriums. The 6-foot rule will be in effect during any student activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, band, sports and exercise.


Over the last few months, we have spent much time and work successfully preparing our schools for a hybrid model under the old health department guidance. We are committed as a school district to increasing time in and access to school for our students whenever we have the authorization to do so, which we now have. This welcome change will require some adjustments, and some of these changes will take some time to enact. Considerations that we are working through include working with our labor associations to review our existing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and agreements and determine the impacts of these changes and possible adjustments. Health screening will still be required, and there are technical challenges around how we will screen twice as many students each morning when they arrive at school. Similarly, the 6-foot requirement at lunch will be in effect with twice as many students attending. That needs to be resolved. Our classroom settings and furnishings were set up for the old distancing requirements and will need to be adjusted again. There will likely be staffing implications in which we may have to once again shift staff to new assignments depending on family choices. Related to that, regardless of some possible shifting in family choices, we still need to thoroughly serve our families who choose remote only while we are shifting to more in-person schooling; the governor was clear about that. And, CDC requirements continue to outline health and safety protocols for students who ride our school buses.


I do not share these considerations to dampen our enthusiasm for this week’s welcome news, but merely to note that like all things that have happened during COVID, these changes don’t happen with the flick of a switch. We will continue to adjust our system responsibly and thoughtfully, and as expeditiously as is feasible and in accordance with health and safety guidelines. We will keep our community apprised of our progress and will keep moving forward.


Related to that, Monday marks the final day of hybrid launch, this time for our 10th, 11th and 12th graders. Prior to the governor’s announcement on the new CDC guidance, on March 15, in a declaration identifying a mental health crisis for our state’s children, he announced that by April 19, in-person schooling options for families must be at least 30% of the average weekly instructional hours students were receiving prior to the pandemic. In our secondary hybrid plan, we fall short of that new in-person schooling mandate by approximately 150 minutes or 2 ½ hours per week. I announced at our school board meeting last night that we are working with our labor partners and hope to have a solution to share before we recess for Spring Break at the end of next week.


Lastly, weeks ago, we surveyed families asking them to choose hybrid or remote learning for the remainder of this school year. In that same survey we did say there may be an opportunity to change that choice at the midpoint of the second semester. Our staffing, especially at elementary, is delicately balanced based on these family choices. We will be sending out another survey next week where families will be able to affirm their selections not only this spring, but also give us an idea of where they are leaning for next fall. As was stated at the beginning of this message, we expect to be in full-time learning in the fall, however some families may wish to continue with a distance format for a myriad of reasons. Getting an idea now will help us in our budgeting and planning for next year.


This past year has been more challenging than perhaps any other that we have ever experienced. And, it is in times of adversity that we often experience our greatest growth as individuals. The successful rollout of the vaccines, the diminishing transmission rates in our county and the ability to now serve more students in school, are all wonderful landmarks on our road to recovery and “getting back to better”. I want to again thank everyone for your hard work, support and understanding this past year.



Patrick Murphy



February 26, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As most are hopefully aware by now, we are well into our implementation of our in-person hybrid learning roll out. On March 8 all elementary grades will be back in person, and our first middle schoolers (sixth graders) will be returning to campus for hybrid instruction on March 15. As stated previously, our goal is to have in-person hybrid learning in place for all middle and high schoolers by the end of March. Our students have done a wonderful job of following health and safety protocols, including wearing masks. Likewise, our staff have worked incredibly hard to have our facilities safely prepared for the return of students and staff. Seeing our students in schools, interacting with classmates and receiving warm welcomes and caring instruction from our teachers and all staff has been a long awaited and beautiful thing to observe.


At the same time, I am so appreciative of our staff who continue to work hard and serve their students remotely. We have a larger percentage than many school districts of families who have chosen to remain exclusively remote. No matter the model of learning, we have tried as much as possible to keep students with their current teachers. We have not been able to do that in all cases at elementary, but when we have not been able to, we have tried to at least keep students in their current school. In some instances, students (or staff) have had to switch schools. At the secondary level, given the complexity of matching up six (6) teachers with a families’ choice, we have created a hybrid model that combines remote learning in the morning with in-person learning in the afternoon. In this way, we can keep all secondary students at their school with their same teachers.


Hybrid learning is one more step toward meeting our ultimate goal of bringing all students back on campus for full days of in-person learning five days a week, just like we did before the Pandemic. We know for some, the transition back to school is moving too slowly. For others, it seems as if we are moving too quickly. As we have done since the Pandemic started, we continue to base our decisions on guidance from our local Health Officer based on the latest COVID-19 data. To see the latest guidance, as well as links to information about the hybrid learning plan and other resources, please visit our In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage on the Olympia School District website.


Thank you.



Patrick Murphy



January 29, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


2020 was a year like no other, and while the start to 2021 has certainly already had its share of challenges, it has also brought signs of hope and seeds of optimism. The immense obstacles, barriers and trials presented to us by the COVID-19 virus has forced our reliable, predictable school system to pivot in ways we might never have thought possible. And though challenges continue, I think history will reflect that our families, students and staff have responded to this test with remarkable success, fortitude and devotion.


As we all know by now, our health officials have learned much about the virus over the last year. We have been given the recommendation to proceed thoughtfully, cautiously and slowly with hybrid learning, in-person in our schools for those families and students that seek it. This recommendation comes because we have learned that with health and safety mitigation measures in place in our schools, transmission likelihood is negligible even compared to remaining in full-time remote learning. Masking, frequent hand-washing, health screening, physical distancing and maintaining small cohorts work. We have learned that from our own experience in serving students in our special education programs since September here in Olympia. We have done enormous work, partnered with facility safety agencies, hired additional nursing support and done training to be prepared. If you have not seen our Pandemic Safety plan that covers all these areas in detail, you can read it here. Similarly, I would encourage families to view our training video to get an idea what hybrid will look like in our schools if you have not already viewed it here.


We shared earlier this month that this rollout will begin with kindergartners and preschoolers on February 1, 2021. There will be a “soft launch” for our youngest learners as most of them have never set foot on their campuses. Teachers will have short “meet and greet” meetings with students and families to familiarize them with their school and classroom the first two days before hybrid learning starts in full. We will take at least two weeks to monitor and ensure that our protocols continue to be effective before adding subsequent grade levels.


We know that many families have indicated a desire to continue in full-time distance learning. We also know that staff have individual circumstances and health requirements that necessitate continuation in remote instruction and support as well. Matching up the choices of families with the availability of staff across schools, and grade levels, is a complex and iterative process that takes time, so we do appreciate your patience and understanding as we keep working through that.


One thing we know for sure is that we will need all hands on deck in the months to come. Whether your student is working remotely or coming on campus in hybrid; whether staff are working with kids online or in a mask in a classroom, we will all continue to give our best with compassion and kindness. Times of difficulty are often when we do our greatest learning, and come out stronger and better prepared for the inevitable challenges that are still before us. I have great confidence that this is and will be our story in the Olympia School District. Together, we will come out of this “better”; better at serving all children.



Patrick Murphy



December 18, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Back in mid-March, when the COVID-19 virus made its initial impact, a colleague said that closing schools would be the second hardest thing we’ll ever do. I was perplexed by that and asked the natural question, “then, what will be the most difficult?” The response was, “opening them again.”


When and how we will open our schools to all of our students has been the overarching question and concern for families and staff for several months now. With the announcement this week from the governor’s office, it is not surprising that the school board and I have heard from numerous members of our community on how to respond to that new guidance, and undoubtedly we will hear from many more in the days and weeks to come.


For some, this announcement that recommends a return to in-person learning in school at a faster pace than the previous metrics allowed, it was most welcome and overdue. For others, given the rates of transmission and the imminence of the vaccine, it seems hasty, scary or even unwise.


Even with the incredible efforts and improvements in distance learning that have been made by our educators, many families, and staff, struggle mightily in the remote learning model. The toll that our school closures has taken on the mental health of our community is real and building. And at the same time, the fear of contracting the virus and the overwhelming desire to keep our students and staff safe from infection is likewise real and magnified given the rates of transmission in our community, state and country.


Neither of these viewpoints is wrong. The question is whether we can find a way to address both concerns, or are they mutually exclusive? Given the research and experience of other schools, districts, states and countries, I believe we can do both by continuing to provide distance options for families (and staff) while adhering strictly to our safety protocols in our buildings.


Gov. Jay Inslee noted the decision to open schools rests with district leaders but also encouraged cooperation with local health officials. From the beginning, we have worked with our partners at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) on the safest way to move forward and will continue to do so. At the end of the day, the county health officer does have authority to close schools if she does not believe we can run them safely, so it behooves us to work together. An estimated start date for larger in-person learning opportunities is not yet set, but will be determined in consultation with PHSS and our labor partners. A lower community transmission rate, as always, will help.


In a news release today, December 18, PHSS Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek responded to the governor’s announcement. “We have been working together with school superintendents and the Washington State Department of Health to plan for this transition to a phased in approach to in-person learning in 2021 in anticipation of these new guidelines. The latest public health research shows this can be safely achieved at higher levels of disease activity than previously thought when all health and safety guidelines are strictly adhered to. We ask the public to continue to help us bring our transmission rates down over this holiday season by avoiding travel and social gatherings, wearing masks, washing hands, abiding by quarantine if exposed to COVID-19, and getting tested quickly if symptoms develop.”


Much work has gone into preparing our school buildings for a safe return of students and staff. A couple of months ago we shared with families a COVID-19 training video for families and the community that features protocols for a safe return to school. Many of these protocols are also outlined in our OSD COVID-19 Pandemic Return to Work Safety Plan, which is posted on our COVID-19 Response Protocol webpage. Lower community transmission coupled with strong safety protocols in our schools will create the safest in-person environment for our students and staff.


If you are interested in learning more about the governor’s announcement this week, the new metrics for phasing in on-campus learning, and the most recent PHSS communication, please visit our In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage on the OSD website.


We recognize that winter break, like most things, will be different this year. Regardless, I wish all of you a safe and restful holiday season.



Patrick Murphy



November 24, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


I noted last year at this time, that it was in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, at the height of battlefield deaths and casualties that Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a national day of Thanksgiving. It might have seemed contradictory to those that heard his declaration to be grateful when things seemed so bad.


Upon reflection, it makes more sense to me now that when times are most challenging, this is when it is most important that we take stock of what is good in our lives and express our thanks. Otherwise, we can get submerged and lost in the problems of our lives, in our communities, and in our world, and not see the light and the good that is all around us.


When I truly look and listen, I see it and hear it every day. I see students reaching out to one another to check in on friends to make sure they are doing okay, to work together on assignments or just laugh together about something. I see teachers and staff extraordinarily transforming the way we deliver education and working tirelessly to find new ways to replicate the connections and relationship building that was so prevalent in our physical classrooms and is harder to do now. I see adults reaching out to give to families that are in need and supporting our Educational Foundation in record numbers. Meals, Internet connection, housing assistance and countless other basic needs are being met thanks to the benevolent actions of our community.


I suspect that most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year. Our gatherings will likely be smaller, cozier and more intimate than we had originally planned. Whatever your plans, I hope you all not only find rest, joy and hope in these trying times, but the opportunity to give thanks as well.



Patrick Murphy



October 30, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


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.


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



September 20, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we reflect on the three weeks since this school year started, there is much to celebrate. I have seen firsthand students rolling down car windows to wave and say hello to their principals, teachers, librarians and others who lined up in front of schools to pass out textbooks, library books and learning tools during drive-thru school distribution days. I have also seen photos shared by families on our district social media, some of which are featured in this newsletter, of students with big smiles in front of their computers or standing with siblings on the first day of school. Finally, I am so happy to share that we just completed our first week of in-person learning at 10 of our schools that welcomed small groups of students enrolled in two of our special education programs. For the first time in six months, students were served on our campuses. More than 100 students boarded school buses or were driven by parents to school, entered our classrooms, and were taught in person.


As we shared in a recent communication to families, our next step is to expand the number of students we serve in person. Thurston County health officials issued updated guidance last week that expedites our ability to expand the number of students who can return to on-campus learning while prioritizing high-need students, which includes our youngest learners. You may recall that our fall reopening plan calls for us to transition from distance learning to a hybrid learning model once health officials determined it was safe to do so. That time is now upon us, and we are excited to move forward with this opportunity. In the hybrid model, students are in school two days a week and learn remotely the other three days. Families may also choose to keep students in a full-time distance learning model, as we recognize for some that may be a preferred option. The details of both plans are included in the district’s fall reopening plan, which is posted on the district website.


The process of bringing students back on our campuses will be done thoughtfully and carefully with great attention given to the safety of students, families and employees.


Part of our immediate work to expand our in-person learning includes:


  • Surveying families again to find out which students will return for in-person instruction and which families prefer to keep their students in full-time distance learning. Related questions will be asked of district staff. We want the most up-to-date information to help us make informed staffing and program decisions for a shift to hybrid learning.

  • A continuation of meeting with our employee association partners to review agreements on transitioning to a hybrid model.

  • Completing all tasks necessary to safely return students to classrooms.


We will communicate regularly with you as we move forward with the next step of our reopening plan. We know that families need time to plan for the transition to in-person learning, and we will determine and communicate a reasonable timeline as soon as possible.


Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together to provide the best education in the safest way possible.



Patrick Murphy



August 31, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


We know this summer has been challenging, especially with all of the changing information as we continue to tackle the COVID-19 virus as a school district, a state, a nation and a world community. And while it may not be the start of school we were hoping for, I am proud of the work of our staff and families in preparing for the uncertainty and want to welcome you to the 2020-21 school year.


Few things can get students, staff and families as excited as the anticipation and excitement of the start of a new school year. Even in the midst of the Pandemic which has caused us to begin school for most students with remote instead of in-person learning, there is still an eagerness to get back to school, meet new teachers and see friends.


As mentioned, our dedicated staff have been busy this summer preparing for the best start possible. We are better equipped to begin this school year in a distance learning model based on our reflections and feedback from you, our families and staff since last spring. Our teachers have been training on technology tools and best practices for distance learning, understanding that our students and families need consistency and flexibility. We have identified essential learning standards, and students will be able to learn remotely via live and recorded lessons. We know it is not best practice to try to replicate a typical in-person school day online. Asking students to sit in front of a computer screen all day is not the most effective way to learn remotely. Like in-person schooling, our plan is to provide a balance of direct instruction and independent learning time, and time to collaborate with peers. We are also committed to student wellness, as identified in our Student Outcomes, to make sure students have the social, emotional and mental health support they need to succeed.


The Pandemic has forced us to do things differently. This is our opportunity as educators to become better at what we do, and find new ways to meet the needs of all students that we will benefit from long after the COVID-19 health crisis is over. I like to say it’s an opportunity for us not to return to normal, but to get back to better. Through our work this summer to create a fall reopening plan with input from hundreds of staff, students, families and community partners, we are already seeing signs of how we can be a stronger school system. This includes our ability to build more effective individual connections with students and families. The closure of our school buildings has opened a new window to see, front and center, how poverty impacts a student’s ability to learn in school. We can help respond to at least one of these needs, the need for school supplies, thanks to the annual Little Red Schoolhouse fundraiser. The success of this regional school supply collection and distribution project is staggering. Our school district received thousands of school supplies to share with families in need, including 336 boxes of crayons, 275 dozen pencils, 1,440 pocket folders and 460 backpacks, to name a few. We have also worked throughout the summer to disinfect our school sites and implement enhanced health and safety measures so that we are ready to welcome students back on campus as soon as public health guidelines allow. Health officials have given permission for us to serve small groups of students this fall who need specialized in-person learning services.


As we edge closer to that all important first day, whether your student is marking significant milestones such as the first day of kindergarten (Class of 2033), first day of middle and high school, or the start of their senior year, our dedicated staff across the system are ready and excited to welcome everyone to school.


Be sure to stay up-to-date on important district communication by visiting our website, following us on social media, reading our Spotlight on Success newsletters and keeping your contact information up-to-date in our Skyward Family Access student information system. We look forward to partnering with you again this year. 



Patrick Murphy