School superintendent offers update

by Eric Webb

Superintendent, Orcas Island School District

Fall has arrived on the island and OISD is entering its second month of the 2021-2022 school year. September has provided students and staff with wonderful learning opportunities and engaging activities, from field trips to sporting events. These opportunities and events could not have happened without the support and dedication of all groups involved. As of today, we have managed to keep COVID out of the school district during this first month!

While the positive cases on the island and in San Juan County have slowed over the past few weeks, we must remain vigilant with our mitigating measures to keep the virus at bay. Masks, handwashing, COVID testing, improved ventilation, and staying home when sick continue to be our primary strategies. The students have been remarkable this past month wearing masks in the classrooms, at recess, and on field trips. A perfect example of this dedication is OISD’s High School Volleyball Team committing to wearing their masks during a recent indoor tournament in Yakima. They were the only team to do so during the tournament, and peer pressure did not sway these girls in their conviction to remain safe and healthy thus allowing them to continue on with their season and finish strong.

The recent change in the seasons and weather have led to a significant number of students developing allergies or cold-like symptoms. Many times these symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Families have been incredible in taking proactive steps to keep children at home when they are experiencing these symptoms and contacting their respective schools to notify staff. The staff then track and follow up with each and every symptomatic child and, in most cases, perform COVID testing on the students prior to their return to the classroom. Ensuring that all students are COVID-free before reentering the classroom participating in activities is yet another layer of safety we have in place here at OISD.

Over the past month, the district has been collecting and confirming the vaccination status of our staff to meet the October 18 deadline established by Governor Inslee’s proclamation. I am pleased to announce that our on-campus Certificated and Classified staff are 98% verified. Some additional work is required to verify contracted employees off-island that serve our students either virtually or through their organizations. This will be a focus over the next couple of weeks for the district, as we do not want student instruction to be impacted or interrupted throughout this process.

The month of October brings with it Homecoming Week (Oct 4-8), Student Conferences for K-8 (Oct 14 and 15), the end of the First Quarter (Oct 29), and many more exciting opportunities for learning and engagement. In addition to these, the District will be conducting Strategic Planning as we plan for a “New Better” post-pandemic. We encourage you to help us answer the following three questions:

Where are we now?

Where do we want to go?

How shall we get there?

The Community Focus Group Meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the District cafeteria. We value your input and hope that you will attend and help plan the future for our school district.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” — Haruki Murakami