October 2021

SOS Header October 2021 

Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot It is getting darker earlier each evening and the clocks will soon be “falling back.” The blustery winds are taking their toll on the beautiful fall foliage, filling our streets with a carpet of brilliant orange, yellow and red leaves. Normally, this is the time of year when our students, staff and families start to get into the groove of the school year. But alas, as we have said many times before, this has been anything but, a “normal” school year.


There is cautiously good news on the horizon that was shared by Thurston County health officials this week. The weekly rate of positive COVID cases continues to trend down and is below 200 cases per week for the first time in a long time. And while hospital capacity is always a concern, that too, is trending in the right direction with more available beds in ICUs and space in general, than in the recent past. On top of that, elementary age children will be eligible for the vaccine very soon with doses arriving in Washington state reportedly next week. We have recently been able to implement a “Test to Stay” protocol in our schools that allows students who are close contacts, but not symptomatic, to stay in school thanks to the hard work of our nurses and health care teams. There are lots of things on the health front that give us hope moving forward.


While we are grateful that we are able to provide full-time in-person learning for all families seeking that, along with an online option through our virtual academy that is getting fully staffed after a major surge in enrollment to start the year, this has been a difficult and tiring first couple of months of school for staff, students and families. I’ve heard universally that while there is much gratitude to have students back in-person; people, in general, are seeing fatigue and exhaustion that does not normally surface until much later in the school year.


There are lots of reasons for that. Perhaps it is fear that another variant will set us back, or that cold and flu season is upon us and has the dark cloud of COVID making it more concerning. Maybe the mitigation measures of masking and distancing are taking their toll after so many months and we are longing for unrestrained communication and connection. It could be the staffing shortages that are stretching our team like never before. Or, possibly a worse scenario, some may have had serious medical circumstances in their family or may have lost loved ones related to the virus. Whatever the reason, we knew that our recovery from the pandemic would not be a flick of a light switch, but rather a gradual turning of a dial.


We knew that meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of our students and staff were going to be critical this year before there could be any progress in academics. That is why we invested in more support like health staff, social workers and family liaisons. We will be hosting another community webinar from 6-7 p.m. on November 3 to give an update on that part of our recovery plan and to take questions from the community. Look for a separate announcement in this newsletter about how to join us on Zoom for the student well-being webinar.


Research shows us that there are peaks and troughs when recovering from disasters. Our Department of Health has done an analysis on this volatility and turbulence and how it impacts our mental health. We will eventually get back to a new sense of normal, of stability, and of calm, but we are not there yet. We are going to be in this a while longer. It might not seem like it at the moment, but just as the falling leaves of autumn will eventually be replaced by the buds of spring, so, too, I believe, together, we will weather these challenges and come out of this stronger and better as a school district and learning community. In the meantime, know that none of us are alone in our stress. I encourage all of us to continue to invest in our own physical and mental well-being and that of our loved ones. Thanks, as always, to our families and staff for your support and uncompromising compassion. 



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Meet Olympia High School Running Phenom Ethan Coleman


Meet Olympia High School Running Phenom Ethan Coleman

You may have seen Olympia High School senior Ethan Coleman running around town in the neighborhoods near the high school, at LBA Park or around Capitol Lake. With a weekly training mileage of 60 miles a week, Coleman does a lot of running on the streets and sidewalks of Olympia.


Coleman, who holds the record for the fourth fastest 2-mile time in Washington state history, always gets his miles in. That’s one of his key ingredients for success. He also focuses on a diet rich in protein and a full night’s sleep, especially in the days approaching a race.


Coleman earned a spot on the national map this past spring, when he logged the nation’s second fastest 5K time. That race led to Coleman being recruited by the University of Notre Dame, where he will attend next fall. Most recently, Coleman took first place at the South Puget Sound League (SPSL) championship meet on October 21. The Olympia Bears varsity men's team also took first place at the event. The Bears head to districts this weekend.


“Ethan is a rare combination of incredible talent, outstanding work ethic, and relentless desire to be the best runner he can be,” said OHS coach Jesse Stevick. “Oftentimes, it is easy for elite-level athletes to become very inwardly focused on their own individual goals, but what is so neat to see is, despite being one of the best runners in the nation, Ethan demonstrates excitement for the success of his team and teammates. He decided to run at Notre Dame next year for a variety of great reasons, but some of these include the team atmosphere and that there will be coaches and athletes who will make him a better runner and a better person. Ethan is well-grounded and has a good perspective that while running is a big part of his life right now, it is not where his worth is derived.”


Coleman hadn’t always planned to run cross country. As an elementary and middle school student, he played soccer and basketball. It was during his freshman year of high school that he first tried cross country. He discovered that everything seemed to click and he had a natural ability. He also found that running relieved stress and killed time during the COVID-19 epidemic.


“Running, for someone who enjoys it, can be an escape from all of it,” Coleman said. “When you are running fast, you can just feel the wind behind your back. It’s indescribable. It’s like no other feeling really.”


Talking after the SPSL meet on Oct. 21, Coleman acknowledged Stevick and his OHS teammates. “I really just love the team and the coach,” he said. “It’s a really good culture. It’s a sport where you can be both individual and team simultaneously, and that’s really valuable.”


Coleman’s advice for new runners is to live a healthy lifestyle in general, get the miles in and otherwise keep it simple. “In reality, running is pretty simple, and when you get really good it’s easy to overthink all the small things, but I think keeping it simple is the best strategy,” he said.


Coleman’s next goals are to win at districts and state and to move on to nationals. His long-term goal is to one day qualify for the Olympics.


Ethan Coleman is the third student from the right in the photo featured above.



Community invited to Student Well-Being Webinar Nov. 3


Community invited to Student Well-Being Webinar Nov. 3

The community is invited to a one-hour Zoom webinar on Wednesday, November 3 to learn about OSD supports for student well-being.


The webinar will be held from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom (see Zoom details below).


Superintendent Patrick Murphy will be joined by Director of Whole Child Success Char Franz and Director of Student Support Ruth Middlebrook. Other guests who will share some brief remarks include an OSD social worker, district family and community partnership coordinator, and a representative from the Olympia School District Education Foundation.


The panelists will share how federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds are being used this year to support student well-being in response to the pandemic. Supports are also outlined in the OSD Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan.


After a brief introduction from the panel outlining the various supports, they will address questions posed by participants during the Zoom webinar and/or emailed in advance. If you are unable to attend, feel free to email questions in advance to: [email protected]. Upon completion the webinar, along with previous monthly webinars, will be recorded and posted on the district website.



November 3, 2021 Zoom details:
Please follow this link to join the webinar: https://osd111.zoom.us/j/84945656414


Or One tap mobile:
US: +12532158782,,84945656414# or +13462487799,,84945656414#


Or Telephone:

Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592


Webinar ID: 849 4565 6414


International numbers available: https://osd111.zoom.us/u/keDMIc1vjs



McKenny students contribute thousands of hours to the food bank


McKenny students contribute thousands of hours to the food bank

The food bank volunteer program has been a part of McKenny Elementary School for five years now. During that time the program has been responsible for packing tens of thousands of weekend food bags and contributing thousands of cumulative hours of service to the Thurston County Food Bank.


“I love this project because it gives our students a safe outlet to serve with their families,” said organizer Mindy Swedberg, a physical education specialist at McKenny. “Our kids get to see firsthand that service is fun, requires teamwork, and also takes a lot of hard work.”


“As students get older they begin to see how their work helps and provides for kids in their immediate community, and how our school community plays a big part in meeting the needs of kids across the country every month,” Swedberg added. “We place emphasis as a school on showing kindness and compassion through our direct work with the Food Bank each month.”


This year, McKenny students and their families have the opportunity to sign up for volunteer time at the food bank during the last Thursday of every month. Each grade level gets at least one opportunity to sign up. This is strictly a volunteer program, not a requirement, students and families elect to volunteer on their own time.


“It’s great to get the kids involved and get that experience with helping the community,” said Elisa Del Giudice, who volunteered with her 3rd grade son yesterday. “It’s kind of nice to have him experience something on the peer level where he’s helping kids his own age with the food backpacks for kids.”


“Volunteering at the food bank allows students to learn firsthand that service can be fun and that they can have a big impact, even as kids,” said McKenny Principal Michael Havens. “The program also teaches the value of accomplishing big tasks through teamwork and allows families a safe place to serve together. Many students have grown to love the food bank project and developed an enjoyment for service projects,” Havens said.


Morgan Lord, the weekend meal bag coordinator for the Thurston County Foodbank, said that McKenny has been one of the strongest groups of volunteers over time. “Even through the pandemic last year, McKenny put together groups to come in every week. We lost a lot of volunteers that couldn’t come in that year and McKenny was able to rally families to come in weekly.”


The food bank project began in the fall of 2017, the brainchild of Swedberg, who was a school parent at the time. As a school staff member now, she continues to lead the program. School leaders say they intend to continue the program each year and hope to see it grow.


“I am incredibly proud of our school - especially during COVID,” Swedberg said. “We helped sustain the FORKids program at the Food Bank during a time when our community needed it most. We had groups going in several times a month to meet the volunteer needs required to get food out to our community. Families and staff in our school stepped up in big ways to help get a very necessary job done.


“It makes me teary thinking of how many of our families set aside time, and continue to set aside time, to meet the needs of others. It is love in action.”



School is in session on January 3, 2022


School is in session on January 3, 2022

The 2021-22 Olympia School District school year calendar has been updated to reflect that school is in session on Monday, January 3, 2022.


A previously published version of this calendar mistakenly stated that there was no school on January 3, 2022. The updated OSD school year calendar is available on our School Year Calendar page.


Please also update your copy of the OSD 12-month printed wall calendar to reflect that school is in session on January 3, 2022.


We apologize for the confusion. 



Reeves students learn power of meditation, self-care


Reeves students learn power of meditation, self-care

Reeves Middle School has a creative, new approach this year to provide extra support for students -- the Healthy Habits class.


Reeves teachers Sarah Yardley and Shawn McGuire partnered together, with input from other Reeves staff, to design and teach the class. The target population is students in grades 6-8 who could benefit from extra support. Healthy Habits expands upon previous intervention programs at Reeves, and students receive elective credit for the class.


Reeves Principal Aaron Davis said previous intervention programs at the school were so successful that school leaders decided to expand the program this year. “It’s going excellent so far. We’re tracking students via surveys and also their work completion and their participation in class. Students are finding that they’re being successful in school not only academically but also in their social interactions with peers.”


Each week Healthy Habits students participate in Meditation Monday and Breathwork Wednesday. They also discuss social skills, practice effective study habits and receive one-on-one academic support. Yardley and McGuire collaborate with other Reeves teachers to incorporate elements from other classes when appropriate.


“Overall, it is a safe and relaxing place for students to decompress, focus and get organized so they can stay on track,” Yardley said.


On a recent Monday morning, students walked into a peaceful classroom with ambient lighting and soft music. After the bell, students quickly settled down. First, they checked in with their teachers. Then, they listened to a guided meditation on YouTube from the Headspace application and learned what is going on in their brains and bodies when they experience pain. As the meditation went on, the students became more serene. Some laid their heads on their desks and their breathing grew deep and steady.


After the 20-minute meditation was over, the class shared their thoughts. One student mentioned feeling so relaxed, it was almost as if he was asleep. Another student shared that she had been practicing meditation at home. All of the students reported positively about their experiences.


Meditation is calming and “a skill they can carry into their lives outside of school,” Yardley said. “Many of the kids wanted guided meditations they can do at home, so I created a folder in Schoology where they can access various meditation and breathwork videos. I do find that the class is way more relaxed after meditation which means they are able to focus better.”


The breathwork sessions provide similar results to meditation, Yardley said. On a recent day, students practiced alternate nostril breathing. “It was the students’ favorite session so far,” Yardley said. “Breathwork instantly balances the brain and brings an overwhelming feeling of calm. Students are expressing that they feel safe and relaxed in Healthy Habits class. Most of them are enjoying the class and like to have the extra time to get centered, organized and complete assignments. It's a nice shift from the hustle and shuffle of the day.”


In addition to learning self-care and study habits, students in the Healthy Habits class find in their teachers an adult who is their advocate.


“It is important to me and Shawn that we create a safe environment where students can come and talk about what they are going through,” Yardley said. "We've had some students show so much improvement that we discussed the option to leave the class and choose a different elective of their choice. So far, these students have expressed that they want to stay because they enjoy the class so much.”



Capital High School Performing Arts Center opens to the public


Capital High School Performing Arts Center opens to the public

Students, staff and the Olympia community finally got the moment they had been waiting for this month when the doors to the new Capital High School Performing Arts Center (PAC) opened to the public with the inaugural performance of “PUFFS” by Capital High School students on Oct. 21. The opening of the PAC was the culmination of more than two years of construction, which began in the summer of 2019.


“It’s a bit magical when you get to truly see it,” said Capital 11th grader Seth Barrett, who performed in “PUFFS.”


The new PAC is a 26,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility with energy efficient systems and modern technological upgrades. It was funded as part of the 2016 construction bond. There are seats for 517 audience members as well as multiple flexible spaces that can be used for teaching, production and storage. The lobby is filled with natural light and was designed as a transparent space, allowing for art work to be displayed and seen from outside the building.


“Amazing is the word that springs up as the new performing arts center comes alive with music, song and theatre,” said Capital Principal Rosemarie Burke. “An excitement has entered the space for all that is new and the beginning of a new journey for students of the performing arts. The Capital team is thankful for the gift of this beautiful space for CHS students and for our whole community.”


Students who performed in the PAC for the first time were awed by the facility. “Performing in it feels amazing,” said 10th grader Griffin Landry. “You can see the audience a lot more and when it's hidden in the dark, you feel like the lights are specifically on you and that makes the theater productions feel more real.”


Students mentioned enjoying the new LED lighting and upgraded sound systems. The facility includes many features for musical performances including a new piano, acoustical shells and an orchestra pit. Sound and lighting systems are controlled by touch screen and audio/video is broadcast throughout the building.


“The new PAC is super big and also has way better acoustics than the old lecture hall,” said 10th grader Lihn Giakonoski. “It also has a way better soundboard and we can actually hear the actors and sound effects and music properly. Also, all the different lights make a really cool experience.”


Alexandria Baratti, an 11th grader who performed in “PUFFS,” noted that the theater allows enough space for performers to comfortably move around, and the seating design allows the performers to interact with the audience.


“This new performing space is such a gift to our students,” said Capital teacher and theater director Kristina Cummins. “We are able to teach industry standards in terms of rigging, lighting and sound; and offer our community the very best in theatrical performances. Thank you, Olympia for supporting the arts in this truly meaningful way.”


Catch one of the few remaining showings of “PUFFS” in the new PAC on Oct. 29 and 30 at 7 p.m. or on Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets online.




Remember to vote in November 2 General Election


Remember to vote in November 2 General Election

Ballots for the November 2, 2021 General Election have been sent to registered voters and must be mailed or dropped off in postage-free ballot drop boxes by Election Day to be counted.


Ballot drop boxes are open 24 hours a day during elections and will continue to accept ballots until 8 p.m. on Election Day. For a list of drop box locations in the Olympia School District, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Elections Division website.


There are two Olympia School Board positions on the November 2, 2021 ballot:

  • Mark Boyer and Darcy Huffman are vying for the District 3 seat that will be vacated by Director Leslie Huff.
  • Scott Clifthorne and Don Mitchell are running for the District 5 position, currently held by Scott Clifthorne.


There is still one more opportunity to register to vote or update your current voter registration for the November 2 General Election:

  • November 2, 2021: Register to vote or update your current voter registration in person and drive-thru only until 8 p.m. on Election Day November 2. In-person/drive-thru voter registration is done at the Thurston County Elections Division, 2400 Evergreen Park Dr. S.W., 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. (Note: Citizens may pre-register to vote at age 16 and will be automatically eligible to vote and sent a ballot during the first election after their 18th birthday).


For additional voter registration information, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Elections Division webpage. You may also call (360) 786-5408 or email [email protected]. For more information about ballot items, read the Thurston County Voters’ Pamphlet.



Upcoming Events


  • October 26-29: Half Days for K-8 Fall Conferences
  • November 2: General Election Day
  • November 3: 50 Minute Early Release
  • November 3: OSD Student Well-Being Webinar (online via Zoom)
  • November 10: 50 Minute Early Release
  • November 11: No School (Veterans Day - Observed)
  • November 17: 50 Minute Early Release
  • November 18: OSD Board Meeting in person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • November 24-26: 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:

Title IX Officers

  • Autumn Lara, Executive Director of Elementary Education: [email protected], (360) 596-8534
  • Michael Hart, Executive Director of Secondary Education: [email protected], (360) 596-8545


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.