Enrolling in School in Thurston County

Parents have more options than ever before in choosing an academic environment that best fits the needs of their student. In Thurston County, there are 60 public primary schools, 17 public high schools, and 19 private schools that are approved by the Board of Education. Eight school districts provide primary and secondary education to the majority of Thurston County’s students. These districts range in size from rural Griffin, with about 650 students, to the more urban North Thurston Public Schools, which had more than 15,000 students during the 2018-2019 school year.

Because every child is unique in learning style, personality and talents, school districts offer a variety of learning environments to fit the needs of every child, as well as choice enrollment. This means parents can apply, on a space-available basis, to the school that is the right fit for their child. If a brick and mortar school isn’t the best option for your child, consider an online school or homeschool.

Find Your Thurston County School District

Interactive Map

Griffin School District

North Thurston Public Schools

Olympia School District

Rainier School District

Rochester School District

Tenino School District

Tumwater School District

Yelm School District

After You Arrive at Your New Home

• Together with your child, walk around the grounds and buildings of the new school before the first day to learn where everything is located.

• Talk to the principal of the new school. Ask about how the school helps children adjust to their new school, such as a buddy system.

• Talk to the school counselors. Inform them that your child is adjusting to a new home, in addition to a new school.

• If your child needs additional support or has special needs, talk to the teachers or staff about the programs and facilities to accommodate these.

• If you haven’t already, look into extracurricular activities (associated with the school or not) to give kids the opportunity to meet new friends.

• Get a copy of school guidelines. Your children may be used to different rules about dress codes, makeup, locker use, PE class, and the like.

• Help your child have the right clothes and equipment, such as a sports uniform on sports day. Before buying uniforms, you may want to find out which items are most comfortable or popular among other students.

• Make sure your child knows how to get to and from school— for example, the best walking route, where bus stops are, or where you’ll pick up and drop off.

• Introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Perhaps your child can meet some classmates before the first day at the new school.

• Visit the after-school care facilities if your child will be using them.

• If possible, get a copy of your child’s weekly timetable so the whole family knows what’s happening and what your child needs each day.

• Learn as much as you can about your child’s new school to help them feel more comfortable. Kids are most focused on fitting in, so knowing what that means to your child can help.


Health & Wellness Close to Home

Moving to a new community means finding new healthcare providers for you and your family. Thurston County offers a wide variety of independent health practitioners and large healthcare systems to meet the needs of every member of your household. You’ll find high quality services, which rival larger communities, conveniently close to your new home.

Thurston County’s Public Health & Social Services department provides a wealth of information online about services and programs to achieve and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. A list of community gardens, helpful information and resources for quitting smoking, first-time pregnancy support, and much more is available on their website.

When you’ve finished lifting moving boxes and are ready to get back to lifting weights, Thurston County is home to several national gym franchises, in addition to locally-owned facilities and YMCA branches. You won’t have to look very far to find options for cardio, strength training, yoga, or aquatics. Recreational leagues for both youth and adults are offered seasonally through city parks and recreation programs for football, soccer, baseball, and volleyball.

Health and wellness resources are abundant and convenient in Thurston County. As you meet your new neighbors, ask for recommendations about their favorite healthcare practitioners, recreational activities, and wellness programs. It won’t take long to find the right combination of care providers and healthful activities that are the best fit for you and your family.

Health & Wellness Resources

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services

Hospitals & Emergency Departments
Multicare Captial Medical Center | capitalmedical.com
Providence Swedish Hospital | providence.org/swsa

Urgent Care Clinics
MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care | indigourgentcare.com
Providence Immediate Care
Rapid Orthopaedic Urgent Care
UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic | uwmedicine.org

Dental Care
Thurston-Mason Counties Dental Society | tmcdental.org

Mental Health
National Alliance on Mental Illness/Thurston-Mason Chapter | namitm.org

Parks & Recreation Programs
City of Lacey | ci.lacey.wa.us
City of Olympia | olympiawa.gov
City of Shelton | sheltonwa.gov
City of Tumwater | ci.tumwater.wa.us

Senior Centers/Resources


Cynara Restaurant & Lounge

Find harmony of body, mind, and spirit when you sit down for a meal at Cynara Restaurant and Lounge. Check your stresses at the door and unwind. Olympia native Christian Skillings’ second restaurant offers a Mediterranean flair with emphasis on the integrity of every ingredient you experience – from drinks to dessert and everything in between.

Take your time to peruse the list of handcrafted cocktails. The towering bar wall is well stocked with marvelous whiskeys, ryes, malts, gins and intriguing amari and aperitifs. Your server welcomes your questions. Be daring or order an old favorite. Old and new world wines are available by the glass or bottle. 

While you are chatting over your libations, order a sharable appetizer such as the Cynara Toasts. Grilled rustic bread slices are topped with savory and/or sweet bits like chevre, grapes, basil, and pistachios. There are four varieties that can be ordered in any combination. 

Dishes from Cynara’s kitchen are made from scratch using many locally sourced ingredients, all selected with thought and care. For the serious meat lovers, Cynara uses Royal Ranch ribeyes and filet mignons where every bite is worth savoring. For a change of pace, choose the lively Moroccan lamb stew, which maintains its popularity. The plainly named cauliflower main dish is anything but. Nestled atop a lemony, basil quinoa salad, a roasted cauliflower head is layered with pomegranate balsamic, apricots, Aleppo toasted hazelnuts and honey. Tasting is believing. 

Hopefully, you’ve paced yourself and made room for the chocolate marquise or the baklava crumble. 

Cynara keeps its values in mind at all times. The bar is set high for service that is gracious, efficient, knowledgeable, and professional. Your time there is meant to exceed expectations. You might also appreciate that Cynara works to minimize its environmental footprint through recycling, composting and energy-efficient practices. 

Share a table with your friends and loved ones for a time of rejuvenation and connection, something we all can use more of these days. Cynara is open for lunch and dinner and has space that can accommodate larger groups or a special event. It is located in downtown Olympia and easy walking distance to the Farmers Market.

Cynara Restaurant & Lounge
500 Columbia Street NW, Olympia


Giving Back in Thurston County

A great way to quickly learn about your new community and meet new friends is to get involved with a nonprofit organization. Every community offers numerous opportunities to support these worthwhile causes. Finding organizations that are meaningful to you will make the experience most rewarding.

These four questions can help you find your perfect nonprofit match:

• Do you have a passion? By identifying what motivates you, such as sports or outdoor pursuits, environmental or conservation issues, working with children, or assisting the elderly, you’ll start to narrow down the list.

• How much time can you give? Figure out how many hours per week or month you’d like to contribute to an organization. If you have schedule limitations, check to see if the organization can work around those.

• What do you bring or want to acquire? It’s important to know how you’d like to contribute to an organization. Are you interested in providing leadership, planning events, or being a social media guru? Volunteering is also a way to get practical training and experience to help your career.

• How do you want to serve? Consider whether you prefer working one-on-one, such as mentoring a teen or helping an adult learn to read, or working in a group, such as helping to renovate a home or coordinating fundraising activities.

Once you’ve had a chance to consider your ideal organization, start exploring what’s available. If you worked with a nonprofit in your previous community, there’s a good chance you’ll find a local chapter in Thurston County too. Three consortiums support a variety of community nonprofits and the lists of their member organizations are a good resource.

• South Sound Partners for Philanthropy
• The Community Foundation
• United Way of Thurston County

Want to get involved but don’t feel you have the time as you get settled? Consider attending a fundraising event. Events are a fun way to meet like-minded people, raise funds for the cause, and give you a feel for the organization.


Basilico: Discover Your New Go-To Restaurant

Growing up in the Umbria region of central Northern Italy, Giampaolo Falchetti was exposed to wonderful handmade pastas, ravioli and slow-cooked sauces covering braised meats. His childhood memories and teachings in wine and food are the hallmark of the seasonal menus he creates for downtown Olympia’s Basilico Ristorante Italiano.

“At Basilico, we work to create a menu and an experience that is as close as we can get to what Giampaolo grew up eating in Umbria,” said his wife and partner in the restaurant, Kathryn Philbrook.

The couple met in 2002 in Dublin, Ireland of all places — an American and an Italian — when he was traveling to polish up his English and she was working in a hostel. After a few years of a long-distance
relationship, the pair married in 2005 and lived in Italy. Life brought them to Kathryn’s home in Washington State in 2006.

As a certified sommelier in Italy, Giampaolo draws on his training to pair wines from the restaurant’s extensive wine cellar with your meal. “I warn you though, if you ask Giampaolo about Italian wines, be prepared for a 30-minute conversation,” said Kathryn with a quick-witted laugh.

His love of wine and food has deep roots. Back in Umbria, Italy, Giampaolo’s family owns a working farm with a bed and breakfast that creates wines and olive oil. These days, Giampaolo focuses on making his seasonal menu reflect his heritage. Braised meats on the menu may include wild boar, quail, and venison.

The Fall/Winter menu at Basilico showcases dishes with local mushrooms as their focal point. Try the Funghi al Marsala appetizer, which is a variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms sauteed with garlic, Marsala wine and cream served with homemade crostini. Entrees like ‘Ncasciata di Melanzane, a layered, baked rigatoni pasta tossed with beef and lamb ragu, fried eggplant, with three cheeses — mozzarella,
provolone bechamel and Parmigiano — are sure to become a family favorite when you visit.

Basilico Restaurant
507 Capitol Way South in Olympia
Reservations: 360.570.8777
or basilicooly@gmail.com


The Olympia Farmers Market: Holiday Market

The change of season at The Olympia Farmers Market means beautiful fall and winter produce and wonderful handcrafted items from some of your favorite local artisans. Shop local first and grab a handmade centerpiece, holiday inspired table runner, hand blown glasses and wood serving tray to present the perfect farm-to-table meal. The Market will have plenty of baked goods, cheeses, jams, sauces, seafood, fresh and cured meats and more to create memorable holiday meals!
Holiday Market Hours at The Olympia Farmers Market runs every Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 pm, November through December 19th. You’ll find fresh produce, artisan foods, inspired art and jewelry, practical and whimsical gifts – something for everyone on your holiday list! The Market will be closed December 25 and 26 and will reopen Saturday, January 8, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. January, February, and March the Market will be open every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

ABOUT THE OLYMPIA FARMERS MARKET: In operation since 1975, The Olympia Farmers Market is home to over 100 vendors from the South Puget Sound area. Now open year-round, over 150 days a year, we see approximately 500,000 visitors a year. We have a dedicated staff and a volunteer Board of Directors who are committed to our mission “to promote and encourage the development of local, small-scale agriculture and ensure a dynamic market balance for small, local growers and others to make available their products to residents of this community.” We are proud to be an active component of the Olympia community for 45 years.

Centrally located on the waterfront of downtown Olympia, in close proximity to the Hands on Children’s Museum and WET Science Center, area residents and visitors can enjoy local farm fresh produce, artisan foods, wine, plant starts, cut flowers, fresh and cured meats, dairy, fresh baked goods, seafood, jams and preserves, confections, handcrafted gifts, local arts and more, with restaurants and plenty of covered seating, all set to live music.

Olympia Farmers Market

Continuing a Legacy—Panowicz Jewelers

Founded in 1948 by Anton Panowicz Sr., the local, family-owned jewelry store recently celebrated its 72nd anniversary serving the Thurston County community. After seven decades, Panowicz Jewelers still holds true to its founding: a legacy of quality, integrity and value — helping our customers commemorate the celebrations of life is our purpose, our reason for being.

“Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other,“ Leslie Panowicz laughs. “The silver lining is a renewed appreciation for family, home and the small joys in life. Most of us have slowed down in some way; enjoying more quiet moments with family, meaningful conversations with friends and thinking about how to celebrate those we love.”

“Throughout the years, we have helped many nervous individuals find that perfect engagement ring. Be it a proposal or another special moment, it is such an honor to help our customers find that special gift that is a tangible reminder of the love and appreciation they share.”

While many things have changed, there is much more that has remained constant at Panowicz. Their entire team has remained together, working both from home and in the store, helping customers through this time with continued commitment to outstanding service and care for their customers.

Leslie shared that customers will often recount a memory of when her grandfather or father helped them choose a special piece of jewelry. “These memories are so special and help us remember why we are here.” Leslie said. Panowicz Jewelers prides itself on helping create those memories.

For more information or to schedule an appointment visit:

Panowicz Jewelers
111 Market St NE, Olympia


Olympia’s Capital Medical Center

The Pacific Northwest is home to endless natural beauty and premium medical care providers to boot. Located in the state capital of Olympia, Capital Medical Center is a heavily accredited and committed provider for residents in more than five local counties.

The hospital, which celebrates 35 years in the community in January 2020, enjoys an alliance with UW Medicine and specializes in several services, such as radiology, hip, joint and spine, birth services, cancer care, surgical services, rehabilitation and more. But what truly makes Capital a top medical facility is that it is dedicated to improving the overall livelihood of individuals within the community. Its mission simply is “Making Communities Healthier”.

Capital Medical prides itself not only on a focus of healing patients, but also on having a strong relationship with its employees and fellow physicians. Capital serves as a place people choose to come for healthcare, physicians want to practice, and employees want to work. Capital also offers financial assistance to eligible under-insured and uninsured patients, support for staff and invests substantially in the quality of the facility.

Capital is passionate about keeping patients informed and providing knowledge and encouragement through events and helpful health-related articles on its website. In featured news articles, Capital Medical stresses the importance of mammograms, details on avoiding the flu, donating blood and highlights trusted experts of the healthcare community. Capital team members even administered free blood pressure checks for community members attending the Grays Harbor Summer Concert Series.

In addition to providing world-class medical care in West Olympia, Capital Medical Center positively impacts their community in other ways through sponsorships and donations to organizations like CIELO, Empowerment 4 Girls, SafePlace Olympia and many more community benefit programs.
Capital Medical Center strives to embody integrity, compassion, and excellence, and its caring providers are ultimately here for you, our new neighbor.

Capital Medical Center


Community Spotlight: South Sound Success Story

Heidi Duncan of Duncan Insurance, Olympia

It could be that some superheroes come into being from a toxic spider bite, but other superheroes are just born into their roles as descendants of “do-gooders” before them. That’s the case with Heidi Duncan of Duncan and Associates Insurance Brokers, based in Olympia.

From the time she was young, little Heidi dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming an insurance agent. When other kids set their sights on becoming a doctor, professional ice skater or architect, Heidi was interested only in insurance.

Her father, Russ Duncan, founded Duncan Insurance 50 years ago. When Heidi was three and a half years old, she started going to work with her dad to give her mom a break with her newborn brother. Her first job was to pick staples out of the carpet, but that soon progressed to more complex tasks. By kindergarten she was using the office typewriter like a pro.

Heidi knows exactly when she knew that she wanted to be an insurance agent. When she was four or five, the phone rang at home in the middle of the night, awakening everyone in the Duncan household. It was a client. His house had just burned down and he was calling his insurance agent for help. Heidi’s father leapt to action. He let his client know that he was completely taken care of and that he would be there for him every step of the way.

The superhero was revealed. Russ Duncan demonstrated to his daughter how important it is to take care of people in stressful times. It should be no surprise that when Heidi turned 18, she was one of the youngest people in Washington state ever to take and pass the insurance agent licensing exam.

Since then, she has been working diligently to help her clients. “Listening to the needs of my clients and helping them understand all the options available to them is the center of all our work,” notes Heidi. “Our agency may be small, but we have a huge range of expertise and since we operate like a family, we work to provide seamless wraparound insurance coverage.”

Being available to clients for emergencies continues to be a cornerstone of Duncan and Associates Insurance Brokers. “We are like financial first responders,” says Heidi Duncan. “We provide calm and comforting expertise for people who are dealing with major issues. We want to be superheroes.”

Duncan and Associates


New to Thurston County?

Here’s What You Need to Know

There is always so much to do when you move. This checklist will help you to quickly navigate a few important tasks related to relocating.

Update your Drivers License

If you have a valid Washington driver license, you have ten days after you move to change your address. A new card with your updated address will cost $20. It’s free and simple to do online at dol.wa.gov/licenseexpress.html.

If you’ve moved from out of state, apply for a Washington State driver license within 30 days. Remember to bring proof of identity and residence, in addition to the correct fees ($89/standard or $113/enhanced) for the type of license you want. Pre-apply online at dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/moving.html to expedite your visit.

Register Your Car

Updating your address for a vehicle already registered in Washington is easy and free! Go online to dol.wa.gov/licenseexpress.html.

If you’ve moved from out of state, register your vehicle in Washington within 30 days. Mailing the required documents and fees gets you plates in about three weeks. Head to a vehicle licensing office to receive new plates immediately. Download the forms at dol.wa.gov/vehicleregistration/moving.html.

Use Public Transportation

Intercity Transit provides bus service vanpool options for commuters, in addition to dial-a-lift service for those with a disability. Plan your route online at intercitytransit.com.

Register to Vote

Whether moving within Washington or new to Thurston County, the driver licensing office can assist with your voter registration. You can also register online at voter.votewa.gov. Voting in Washington is primarily done by mail, so be sure to register at least eight days before Election Day.

Get a Pet License

Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater require licenses for all dogs and cats in city limits. Thurston County requires licenses for all dogs in unincorporated areas and offers voluntary licensing for cats. Even if your pet is indoors only, a license is required.

A list of license fees and licensing offices can be found online at jointanimalservices.org/licensing.

Get a Library Card

Timberland Regional Library provides library services to the residents of Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston Counties. Library cards are free to anyone living or owning property in these areas. Applications are accepted online or in person, but both require in-person address verification.
Learn more at trl.org.