Hello McLane Community! Please see below for the most recent letter from the OSD regarding the opening of schools (dated January 5, 2021.)
Hello OSD families,
Attached is new information we received today from Thurston County health officials related to the expansion of in-person learning.
In a letter to area school superintendents, Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek said that if health metrics support it, she will recommend school districts “cautiously starting in-person learning for elementary and middle school students” using a hybrid model and small groups in alignment with state health and safety guidelines.
The expansion of in-person learning will be possible, she said, if Thurston County continues to stay in the moderate virus transmission range (50-350 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days) “for a majority of days for three weeks after the New Year’s holiday and there is sufficient testing, hospital and public health capacity.”
Currently, Thurston County is in the moderate COVID-19 activity range where in-person learning for elementary school and middle school is recommended, provided strict safety guidelines described in the Washington State Department of Health K-12 Schools 2020-2021 Guidance are followed. Gov. Jay Inslee released new metrics for in-person learning last month that define health metrics for low, moderate and high COVID-19 activity and how each level relates to providing in-person learning for elementary, middle and high school students statewide.
“We have seen significant increases in transmission after holidays so I am closely watching our hospitalizations, outbreaks and public health capacity to respond should we see an increase from the recent holidays,” the health officer said in today’s letter. “I am also monitoring new developments regarding the new strain of COVID-19.” If the situation changes, she added her guidance may also change to reflect the best available data.
As our district has done throughout this pandemic, we will continue to follow the guidance of our local health officials regarding when to return more students to in-person learning. As you may recall, we started serving students in small groups of five or less last September, shortly after our school board approved an OSD school reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year. Since then, staff has been serving hundreds of students in small groups in school buildings while adhering to mandated health and safety protocols. Thanks to the extensive planning and efforts of staff and community, we’ll be ready to move when we get the recommendation from health officials to return more of our students to in-person learning in a hybrid model. Based on today’s letter, we expect to receive that guidance sometime after the third week of January.
We will continue to update you as we receive additional direction from county health officials.
Communications and Community Relations Department
Olympia School District
A message was sent by the OSD on September 23rd to update the district of where we are with regard to opening the schools to students. Please see below:
Good afternoon OSD families,
Thurston County health officials issued new guidance to area educators today that recommends a “slow, careful, phased approach to resume in-person learning prioritizing high-need students.”
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek said her latest guidance is based on COVID-19 transmission rate data. In her guidance today, she states that as of September 19, 2020 the Thurston County transmission rate was 30.8 new cases per 100,000 people during a two-week period. This compares to nearly double that number (60.5 new cases) on July 29, 2020. And the transmission rates continue to trend downward thanks to the efforts of our community in following health and safety protocols.
In a letter released this morning, Dr. Abdelmalek referenced two Washington State Department of Health documents that provide school districts with guidelines for when to initiate in-person learning and the factors that must be considered to ensure it is a safe transition. Both of these documents have been previously linked as resources on the OSD Fall School Reopening Plans Webpage:
- K-12 Schools – Fall 2020-21 Guidance
- Decision Tree for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dr. Abdelmalek writes in today’s letter, “I support each educational institution as they prepare for and gradually phase in more in-person instruction with the requisite robust COVID-19 safety protocols, communication plans, and coordination with Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) in accordance with Washington State Department of Health guidance, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) guidance, and CDC guidance in the way that best suits the unique needs of the community they serve.”
In response to Dr. Abdelmalek’s guidance back on July 30, this week we began in-person learning in 10 schools for small groups of no more than five students with unique special needs. Subsequently, following health and safety protocols, more than 110 students are being served in person this week. While it’s the first step in the return to in-person learning, it was an important milestone and reason for celebration.
Our next step is to take today’s guidance from Dr. Abdelmalek and apply it to our approved school reopening plan. That plan, as well as our new Learning Model Status webpage, speaks to the stages of reopening as we move from virtual learning, to small group in-person instruction, to hybrid learning to full-time in-person instruction. By the end of next week, we will again survey staff and families to determine their current intention or ability to provide or access in-person learning, or continue in full-time distance learning. This information is critical to implementing the next step in our reopening which will expand in-person services to those with specialized needs and our youngest learners. We recognize families are eager to get their students back to school and want specifics now on which students are returning when, where and how. For some this process may seem too slow. For others, it will be viewed as moving too quickly. We will move expeditiously where we can, but always carefully as Dr. Abdelmalek suggests, to “ensure, to the extent possible, sustainability of a school environment where in-person learning is safe for all who work and learn in our schools.”
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