Southern California Edison has announced that "Due to weather conditions that may create the potential for elevated fire risk, Public Safety Power Shutoffs are under consideration in parts of the SCE service territory." On Monday, September 16, SCE shut down the power to Mono County residents. Schools were in session and continued as usual, however this was an event that we used to improve our safety procedures.
First, a power outage in schools is a relatively low-risk event. While it was a bit more challenging, school continued as usual during the recent blackout. Our school staff are skilled in making sure that students are safe in any emergency situation. In this case, learning continued and/or students were treated to a relaxing environment with reading, games and class discussions (much like a weather event when they must stay indoors). The cafeteria was still prepared to serve food. Teachers, administrators, and non-instructional staff such as office personnel, custodial-grounds and transportation remained on duty.
The major issues we experienced with the recent outage related to communication, as all county and district servers, phones (including many cell phones) and information systems were not available. This precluded us sending a message to our parents and staff, and most people had no way of receiving a message even if we had been able to send one. We apologize if you were literally "in the dark" about school, as it was frustrating not to be able to inform you regularly about the situation.
During a recent debrief, staff reviewed the incident and developed some contingency plans, including an old-fashioned phone tree that might be used in case of a power shutdown. Other back-up plans include posting signs on school doors, and in Crowley at the Community Center and store to give the status of school in case of power loss. Our snow phone is currently a VOiP telephone and is not available during a power outage, so we are exploring options for a landline and/or satellite phone for weather and power alerts. We are working with the Town of Mammoth, the Mono County Office of Education, our local law enforcement agencies, other districts and with SCE to learn more ways we can predict and plan for power shut-down events.
The most important news is that power outages at school are likely to occur again, and it is our intention for schools to stay OPEN whenever possible during weather and power events. There are several issues, including that school shutdowns for power-down days are not reimbursed or waived by the department of education. Therefore, we would lose instructional minutes and days when we are not open and would have to extend the school year or risk being fined by the state. If there is an extended outage or extenuating circumstances, we will consider other options, but for now please expect that SCHOOL will be OPEN even if the power is off.
Please email or call if you have any questions. Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding!