September 25, 2020
Dear Orting School District Parents and Students,
We recognize that the media is reporting that several schools, public and private, in the region have already reopened schools, including several next week that will open for a limited number of students at the K-2, possibly including 3rd grade levels. However, there are several Pierce County Districts, like Orting, who remain in the planning stages and are waiting to observe the COVID-19 infection levels to decrease more significantly to allow a safe return for students and staff to in-person student learning and teacher instruction. Currently, Orting is providing a very limited number of special services to our most vulnerable student populations who must be served due to their disability. Like other districts in Pierce County, we are in close cooperation with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department on a daily basis. As expected, the Orting School District places a high priority in monitoring COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and mortality rates in Pierce County, and, at this time, we do not deem it absolutely necessary for students and staff to return to in-person contacts. Public confidence will significantly increase when there is a scientifically analyzed, clinically tested, and effective FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine. I believe it is too early to place our students and staff in school settings where Pierce County infection transmission rates remain high even with the mandatory use of masks and six feet separations.
Like many staff, students, families, and community members, the Orting School District is fine-tuning our safety protocols and screening procedures for when the time arrives for students and staff to return to in-person instruction. We are hoping and planning for it to arrive much sooner this fall rather than later. The Reopening of Schools Task Force will meet again on Tuesday, October 6 to hear a report on our weekly schedule at schools for in-person learning and review a proposed draft of a survey to families and staff to be disseminated the following week.
The most important message that I wish to convey to our stakeholders in this correspondence is that the lives of our students and staff must be protected and remain as our highest priority. Please join me in being patient and understanding of the need to remain unified in our goal to maintain the safety of students and staff at all times.
My best to you,
Dr. Tony Apostle, Superintendent
September 14, 2020
Dear Orting Families,
Our return to the first few days of our virtual classrooms was marred by the local forest and brush fires near high voltage electrical transmission lines. We wish to thank the hard-working and exhausted Puget Sound Energy teams, local firefighters and other important first responders for their commitment to protect people and restore the essential power grid infrastructure assets. We also recognize that many area homes and personal property have been lost, damaged or completely destroyed by the currently uncontrolled fires in some parts of Pierce County. We care deeply about those who have had to relocate due to the evacuations in fire threatened areas. To that end, we are offering our high school shower facilities to those individuals who have been displaced by the fires. People who are in need of our high school shower facilities may call 360-893-2246 to schedule a date and time between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM to use these needed services.
As many are aware, the Orting School District, along with 14 other Pierce County school districts, have reopened and are offering remote, online, virtual classroom instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to return to face-to-face onsite classroom instruction when the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) issues a formal approval for students and staff to safely return to our school campuses. We are currently waiting for the possibility of a post Labor Day spike in COVID-19 infections to determine when and if we are permitted to safely return some students in specific grades and appropriate staff to schools within the next 3 - 4 weeks. Once we receive permission from the TPCHD to open our schools for traditional instruction in classrooms, we must recognize that staff who are presently teaching remotely need additional time to prepare their classrooms for onsite instruction. Staff also need additional time to collect instructional materials, and prepare their classrooms for their students as well. Some staff may also need to make childcare changes to accommodate a return to their work location. The District will be working closely with our union leadership partners to seek staff feedback and collaborate on the best practices needed for a safe return to our school campuses as soon as allowed by the TPCHD.
Over the next few weeks, our schools will be hosting small group instruction on a 4 to 1 ratio, (4 students and 1 adult staff member) as allowed by the TPCHD. Most school districts in our region are offering small group instruction for students with special needs as permitted by their families. If one observes that there are a few vehicles and limited students and staff on school sites, please note that we are doing our very best to offer support and services to our very deserving students with special needs.
I am looking forward to meeting community members and staff over the next few weeks. If you have a question, comment or want to say hello, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Orting Express
Dear Parents of Students Enrolled in the Orting School District,
I hope this communication finds all of you safe and well. The disruption to all our lives caused by the COVID-19 health crisis has been profound and, I know you are seeking clarity on the Orting School District’s plan for reopening our educational programs and student support services. Orting is Open for Learning and Teaching beginning on day one, Wednesday, September 2!
As your superintendent, I am a proud father of two daughters and married to a woman whose entire career was focused as an elementary teacher. My family’s conversations centered on the following: Would I want my daughters and wife to attend school and work during this pandemic? My answer is a resounding no. I am not alone on this decision. Recently, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department provided clear, unambiguous direction to all 15 Pierce County school districts that the current pandemic is unsafe for staff and students to work and learn in our schools in groups larger than 5 individuals (4 students and 1 adult). Subsequently, the OSD Board of Directors unanimously approved that the 2020-2021 school year will begin with nearly all students in grades K-12 to be educated in a remote learning model until it becomes safe to educate children in a face-to-face model in all grades at all schools.
At this time, we are unable to speculate when it will be safe enough to open our schools for face-to-face on campus instruction. We do, however, plan to follow the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s guidelines to educate our most vulnerable students with a 4 students to 1 adult learning group ratio in our schools beginning in September. Throughout the District this summer, decision making leadership staff have centered on this dilemma, just like all parents are struggling with the hard news that the current global pandemic infections, hospitalizations, and mortality rates are significantly alarming. This is the reason for our very cautious high priority and recommendation that it is in the best interaest and safety of all students and all staff to work and learn in very small groups (as described above) or a remote teaching and learning environment from home for the majority of students and staff.
I have some exciting news to report that parents, guardians and students, for the first time, will be able to access The Orting Express which is currently under construction. Research has clearly demonstrated that the positive relationships, regular and timely communications, and bond between parents and students including the classroom teacher is of paramount importance for student academic success. The Orting Express feature will allow families and students to directly connect with classroom teachers, counselors, academic support, nurses, technology support, library services, nutrition services, athletics, etc. We hope to add a variety of support features over time that will allow parents and students to select the kind of help and support in a wide selection of choices. Stay tuned for more information about The Orting Express which is currently under construction.
A reminder: Be sure to complete and return the digital survey that was sent to you earlier this week. Your interests and opinion are vitally important for our school district.
Dr. Tony Apostle, Superintendent
August 14, 2020
Dear Orting Families,
While we are busy planning for an online learning model to start our school year, we want to be ready to pivot back to on-site learning when we are safely able to do so, and we need your help to accomplish this.
Early next week, you will be asked to make a selection in Family Access on which learning model you would like your child(ren) to engage in when and if we are able to return to a face-to-face learning model as determined by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The information you provide will influence important decisions like staffing assignments, classroom and common space configurations, transportation and other important factors that go into building a safe and productive on-site learning environment for Orting kids. The options we will ask you to consider and respond to in Family Access are:
Option A: Orting Remote Learning
Option B: Orting Online Academy
Option C: Intent to Homeschool
Option D: Intend to Withdraw
Option E: Need help
To balance the need to be flexible for our families with the need to maintain a continuity of programs and services for students, changes in learning model preference can only be made at the end of each semester. Please take a moment to review the information below prior to making a selection, and reach out to your school administrator with any questions you may have. We will request you make your selection by Friday, August 21st so that we can move forward with building enriching learning experiences for Orting kids.
Option A: Orting Remote Learning- This option is for families that want a structured model that has a daily class schedule for students. This model combines students meeting with their peers and teachers on a daily basis AND working independently in an online education portal. At the Secondary level students will be scheduled into class periods Monday-Thursday and at the Elementary level students will be scheduled into Academic blocks Monday-Friday. On Fridays students will be assigned remote independent work and may be scheduled by their teacher to receive additional intervention and academic support. More information about building schedules will be shared with the request to make a selection early next week. Families who choose this option will be immediately eligible to return to our face to face program at the point it is phased back in.
Option B: Orting Online Academy- This model is for families seeking an independent online, stand-alone curriculum, with OSD teachers available for content questions on Fridays. At the secondary level, students will be assigned a curriculum that is currently taught in our schools. Exceptions to this will need administrative approval. Families need to make a full semester commitment to this option.
Option C: Intent to homeschool-This option is for families who intend to declare intent to homeschool, but potentially register for individual classes within the school program. Families who have students in grades 9-12 should consult with their school counselor (Shelly Smith (A-K) email@example.com and Josh Thayer (L-Z) firstname.lastname@example.org) when considering placement in Home School programs outside the district. Families can re-enroll in option A or B at any time during the year.
Option D: Intent to withdraw-This option is for families who intend to completely withdraw to homeschool or enroll in a different educational program outside of the district. Families can re-enroll in option A or B at any time during the year.
Option E: Need Help-This option is for families who would like to speak to their school’s counselor to help identify the appropriate option for them.
We recognize that it is difficult to make a decision on your child(rens) school year as this pandemic continues to evolve and throw numerous challenges our way. Please know that it remains our goal to maximize face-to-face learning time when it is safe to do so while adhering to state guidelines for returning to school that include social distancing, face coverings, symptom checks, and cleaning protocols. In the meantime, we remain committed to providing a robust online learning environment for each student, support for families, and transparent communication as we enter into this unprecedented school year together.
All the best,
Superintendent, Orting School District
July 23, 2020
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have followed the guidance of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department on issues of health and safety. Today, the Director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Dr. Anthony Chen, made a recommendation to all Pierce County Superintendents that we should not open schools for onsite instruction in September, citing rising COVID-19 cases and concern over the health and safety our students, education professionals and support staff. This means that we will move forward with plans to reopen with a distance learning model in September while continuing to plan for a rotating A/B schedule model to implement later in the year if the situation improves.
We will continue to work with the Orting Schools Reopening Task Force, staff, and our union partners to ensure a more robust distance learning experience with built-in supports and comprehensive reports for families to track student engagement. You can expect more information in the coming days as we pivot to this new reality, including a request to complete a survey that will help us plan for the eventual reopening of schools with face-to-face, on-site instruction.
Thank you for bearing with us through this ever-changing and challenging time. This is difficult for all of us, especially our students. Please take a moment to reassure them that we miss them and will do everything we can to make this situation as easy for them as we possibly can. Together, we can get through this...
All the best,
July 15, 2020
We are making progress on plans for reopening Orting Schools in September. Last night, the Orting Schools Reopening Task Force approved a plan that allows families a choice between a rotating A/B schedule and online (Continuous Learning 2.0). High school students will also have an alternative site choice.
Our goal is to maximize face-to-face learning time while adhering to state guidelines for returning to school that include social distancing, face coverings, symptom checks, and cleaning protocols. We must also be prepared to pivot back to a fully online model should building closure be required at the direction of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department or Governor Inslee. To do this, we need your help.
Next week, you will receive a survey link via email requesting you to commit to the learning model that best fits your child(ren). A survey will need to be completed for each child. Your information will help us determine the percentage of students returning in the fall, which we will balance against staffing levels, building capacity, and social distancing requirements. With those key pieces of information, we will be able to determine how many days per week students can attend in-person in the rotating model at each grade level.
To help you make your decision, here are a few items for your consideration:
- The rotating A/B schedule will include both in-person and online instruction on the days students do not attend school
- The online model will utilize a platform called Edgenuity. You can view a short video on what your secondary student’s online experience would be at: https://youtu.be/nb-0ZCY1SI8. We will provide more information on the elementary model, which is similar, in the near future.
- Every effort will be made to ensure siblings/children in the same household are on the same rotating A/B schedule, should that be the option the family chooses
- Once you make a selection, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to switch until the conditions change for returning to school under normal conditions due to the requirement to maintain social distancing in classrooms
- Face-to-face instruction for students receiving special education services will be determined based on the student’s individual programming needs
We are doing our best to react to the rapidly changing circumstances before us during this challenging time. While many questions remain unanswered, the input you provide us next week will be vital to our planning process. We will continue to consider the health and safety of our students and staff first, think creatively, and keep you updated as we get more information and progress on this journey together.
July 7, 2020
Dear Orting Community, Families and Staff,
The 4th of July holiday has come and gone and I hope a good time was had by all. Withthe precious and glorious sunny, rainless and warmer days ahead, I hope you find the time to enjoy family and friends and experience the much needed outdoor journeys and relaxation that summer provides.
For many of you in public education leadership positions, summertime is typically devoted to preparing for schools to open in early September. However, this summer planning is continuing to be very unlike any previous June, July and August months in previous years. At this time, a Reopening of Orting Schools Task Force consisting of 35 community and staff members is studying the best available options for opening schools within the health and safety guidelines developed by the Tacoma–Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD), in conjunction with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Center for Communicable Diseases (CDC) and Governor Inslee’s office.
While we would all agree that we would much prefer to open all Orting schools in the traditional method for all students, in all grade levels and operate five days a week, we must comply with the six feet safe distance distancing, sanitation and mask requirements during this highly infectious pandemic.
Orting is among the other 294 school districts statewide that are planning and anxiously coping with the very likely possibility that we will not open schools, as in the past, for all K-12 students, on a full daily schedule, five days a week. At the time of this writing, there is a possibility that online/distance learning and instruction may become a blended model for some students and staff that includes at school, face-to-face attendance, two or three days a week. It is also possible that online/distance learning and instruction may be a continuing full- or part-time option for some students and some staff in September.
Several models are currently being studied and under consideration and no final recommendations have been made; subject to the final decision that will be made by the Orting School Board. Additionally, prior to the final recommendation to the Board, we will reach out to the Orting Education Association and Professional School Employees leadership who are highly respected and considered to be very important and instrumental in partnering with the District staff to work collaboratively and problem solve mutually beneficial opportunities for staff, students and their families.
While it appears there are more questions than answers at this time due to the almost weekly changes in the numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations within the county, state and nation, you can be assured that the entire OSD staff is eagerly preparing to provide the highest quality of educational opportunities for the community’s students and their families during the 2020-2021 school year.
Dr. Tony Apostle, Superintendent
June 18, 2020
Dear Orting Staff, Families and CommunityI would like to take a moment of your time to share my appreciation for our valued and dedicated Orting staff for enduring an unprecedented interruption of the school year and the closure this week for summer vacation.The staff and students have experienced a global pandemic event that will be remembered for generations well beyond the borders of the Orting School District. Collectively, we heartily agree that our traditional routine of high school graduation, academic instruction, athletics, performing arts events, interaction with friends and school staff was sorely missed and will remain as fond memories that will be cherished forever. Further, I wish the Class of 2020 great health, career success, and everlasting happiness. Now go out and compete for the best the world has to offer.
Recently, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in cooperation with the Washington State Health Department and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, released pertinent information related to the safe opening of schools in September. Our District has convened a Reopening of Orting Schools Task Force consisting of approximately 35 OSD staff, students, parents, community members and experts. Together, they will consider this guidance and community feedback to make informed recommendations to the OSD school board in late July on how to reopen schools. We will provide opportunities throughout the summer for you to provide your opinions and preferences on issues related to reopening of our schools through surveys, so please keep an eye on your email inbox and on our Facebook page for links to participate.
I wish everyone a fun, sunny, warm and adventure filled summer vacation.My best to you,Tony