Orcas Public School looks at fall 2020

It’s likely that Orcas public school students will receive their education virtually and in the great outdoors this fall.

And that still requires pens, paper and calculators.

“There is a significant need to provide school supplies for both our K-12 students at school, or if we are going to do distance learning, we want to help facilitate students having school supplies at home as well,” said Orcas Island Elementary School Principal Lorena Stankevich. “The other piece is that we are planning to be outdoors as much as we can so we need every kiddo to have a rain poncho for the outdoor education opportunities at Camp Orkila.”

Island Market is holding its fourth annual back to school drive from Aug. 1-31. Last year, community donations raised $5,000 for the public school. This year the goal is set at $10,000. Donation “tags” are available at the store in $10, $15 and $25 increments as well as a blank tag to make your own donation amount. Present your donation tag to any cashier to make a donation and return your tag with a note of encouragement and support that staff can hang up in the front of the store to show the campaign’s progress.

“This year has posed a lot of new challenges for the school, which will require more attention, more supplies, and mostly more creative ideas from the teachers/staff to ensure our island kids get the education they deserve,” said Island Market General Manager Jacob Linnes.

In addition to purchasing tags, every bag sold of the market’s new Teezers branded coffee will trigger a donation of $2 to the drive for the month of August.

“I’m so appreciative of Island Market again collaborating with us and supporting the schools,” Stankevich said.

School lunches

From mid-March through June, the district supplied daily breakfast and lunches to any child on the island, either via pick-up or on a bus route. That will continue in the fall.

Since the first of July, families can come to the school on Tuesdays from 4:30-6 p.m. to select a large box of food.

“We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or on the spot so we offer it to everyone. And people are really thinking about the whole community and if they don’t have a need, then they politely decline,” she said.

If anyone would like to donate directly to the school to support any of its programs, go to https://oief.org/.

“The schedule we have put together does go outside of our regular budget,” Stankevich said.

What’s next for the school

After holding several meetings with San Juan County Public Health Officer Dr. Frank James, Superintendent Eric Webb announced over the weekend that he would be recommending a distance learning model to the school board on Aug. 13.

At the end of the first quarter — Nov. 3 — the district would evaluate whether or not to continue with that method of instruction through January or advance to an on-campus hybrid framework.

“The distance learning model will be an enhanced version of the model we used this last spring,” Webb wrote in his letter, which is available here: https://www.islandssounder.com/news/webb-to-recommend-distance-learning-for-start-of-school-year/. “Teachers will meet with each student and family virtually or in-person (observing physical distancing and safety protocols) prior to the start of school in order to adequately prepare the student and family for a distance learning term. Also new for the 2020-21 distance learning model will be weekly activities at Camp Orkila to safely engage our students in an outdoor setting while promoting overall social-emotional health.”

OISD will host a Virtual Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., moderated by Lisa Byers, to answer questions and inform the public on future plans. The link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5474235505.

“This has been a really hard time for all of our families,” Stankevich said. “We’ve had summer school through distance learning for a group of students, focusing on reading skills. It’s been really fun to see those kids virtually — every day. I notice that in general people’s spirits are good, and we are thinking about the fall both academically …. and building relationships. We are really going to focus on things like connecting with their teacher and feeling valued.”

Webb wrote in his most recent letter, “As I have stated before, we all want our children back on campus as it used to be. We will get there, but not before it is safe to do so. I look forward to the day when I can welcome all children back on campus to attend school barbecues, sporting events, academic competitions and concerts. Together we can weather this storm and emerge with healthy Orcas Island children and a healthy community!”