NOVA Middle School in Olympia opened the 2020-2021 academic year in an enhanced distance learning structure. This difficult decision was reached to accomplish three goals: safety, certainty, and integrity of the NOVA program.

“We determined that the safety of our faculty and staff, students, families and the greater Thurston County community was our highest priority. A distance learning platform, with folks not congregating, provided that. The prediction that COVID cases would increase almost guaranteed that NOVA would be required to shift to distance learning eventually. Beginning in distance learning would enable teachers, students and families to develop a rhythm for their lives and learning that would carry them through the year successfully.  The safety requirements of group size limitations, masks, social distancing, and restructuring needed to minimize health risks to faculty and staff would fundamentally change the in-person student experience in a way that is unacceptable. The reality is that we could provide a much better student experience with distance learning.”   – Barbara Hutton, Head of School at NOVA Middle School

Making that decision provided Barbara and her team of educators time to focus their creativity and resources on providing an exceptional experience for NOVA students and families.  A handful of parents urged going ahead with on campus learning; with the exception of one family, all have remained with NOVA.

NOVA’s Scavenger Hunt on Zoom


NOVA’s Head of School Barbara Hutton shares:


We are now four months into NOVA’s Enhanced Distance Learning. We adapted and adjusted the instructional program based on student, teacher, and parent feedback. We’ve invested more in technology and counseling and student support resources. We’ve experimented with scheduling and program modifications.



Teachers have blossomed with envisioning and executing new programs which students have grabbed on to.  Students have successfully found ways to demonstrate their learning through non-traditional as well as traditional methods. Students have found new ways to connect through student-initiated after-school clubs and activities. We have supported parents through discussion groups and meetings.








At least monthly we host a virtual community wide event to bring together families to make connections and deepen relationships. In our surveys, both parents and students report over 90% of students are engaged or highly engaged in the program.







When that joyful day arrives when we feel we can be on campus in person, we will bring all that we have learned about and from each other in this time of distance learning and many of the program adaptations and expansions along with us.