SHP Initiates School Closure in Light of Power Shut-Down

  • Axel de Vernou ’21

In response to PG&E’s power shut-downs that affected households across the Bay Area for multiple days, SHP’s administration decided that the best action to reflect the needs of the community would be a school closure on Wednesday, October 9th. Though Atherton was outside of the area that stopped receiving power, Sacred Heart considered safety with regards to commute and having all the faculty administration necessary to run an effective school day.

Due to the fact that PG&E has kept a system of cables and signals that are in need of modernization and advancement, many hazards have been presented to Californians. Just last year, paired with rising temperatures and problematic conditions in the atmosphere, the state’s power lines were unable to respond to the hot winds and led to fires breaking out in what became a national emergency.

Now, acting out of caution, PG&E completely shut off its power for approximately two million citizens in California in anticipation of hot gusts of wind that would negatively react to continued circulation of power. Though most families impacted were in the northern part of the Bay Area, the effects of the shut-down posed risks to members of the SHP community that the administration wanted to prevent.

Dr. Jennie Whitcomb, SHP Principal, says that “we had to weigh how many of our families and employees lived in areas that were potentially affected and what the commute might be like, particularly if traffic lights were out.” The fact that SHP is a commuter school made it so that it needed to look beyond just the immediate ara like certain other public and private schools were able to do. 

Ultimately, “Mr. Dioli’s leadership team decided to err on the side of caution, especially because the scale and time frame of the planned service power down was new territory for us all,” explains Dr. Whitcomb. She also adds that the school was “in constant contact with faculty and staff about the impact of power outages on them. As we saw PG&E delaying power outages and less impact on our faculty/staff, we concluded [that] we [could] run school effectively.” School returned to session on Thursday, with the schedule remaining in the class order that it was intended to be.

Administrators do not anticipate too much of a direct impact on student performance and scheduling conflicts, especially with the extra time to complete homework and college applications. The only long term impact that can be anticipated at this point is “adjusting the schedule in the Review & Renew days in December,” says Dr. Whitcomb. Students can use the event as an opportunity to research the power situation in California and consider the way that other families, some not more than a few hours away, are being impacted.

Photo from PG&E

By Axel de Vernou

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