Students Left in the Dark

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Crescenta Valley students learned a lesson in working together and the value of cellphone lights last Thursday and Friday.

Crescenta Valley was part of the more than 200,000 Southern California Edison customers that lost power in last week’s windstorm.

Students dealt with darkened halls using flashlights and cellphone lights to open their lockers and walk down stairways. Teachers stood outside classrooms with flashlights or would open doors to classrooms allowing sunlight from windows to stream into darkened areas.

All Glendale district schools in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, La Crescenta, were without power on Thursday. By Friday morning all but Rosemont Middle School and La Crescenta and Monte Vista elementary schools had power. The district had an early release for those schools on Friday.

Nearby schools in Pasadena and La Cañada districts were closed due to the windstorm and power outages. On Dec. 2, Tom Torlakson, California Department of Education Superintendent, announced that schools that were closed due to severe wind damage throughout the state would still receive state funding.

“High winds have wreaked havoc throughout the state, but thankfully we have not received any reports of deaths, injuries, or serious damage on school property,” stated Torlakson in a prepared statement. “I want to assure school districts that they will not lose funding if their facilities are closed or used as emergency shelters during this disaster.”

The GUSD superintendent made the decision for students to go to school without power after speaking with law enforcement and being told the roads were passable, said Deputy Superintendent John Garcia.
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“The roads were passable and trees were not down. Our kids could get to school,” said Garcia.

There were only a few trees down on roads Thursday morning, however there were no functioning traffic lights along Foothill Boulevard.

Garcia said they were assessing information as it came in.

“On Thursday morning, we found out there was no power at CVHS,” Garcia said.

He added students were already at or on their way to school by that time.

High school students were advised, via announcement, not to be outside and were offered teachers’ classrooms as lunch areas.

“The district never contacted Glendale Teachers Union to tell them what was happening at these sites,” said GTA President Tami Carlson. “We found out from teachers themselves.”

Carlson added teachers contacted the GTA with concerns for safety and were frustrated about the campuses remaining open without lights, heat, and the ability to heat the cafeteria food.

“Many schools without power did not have any fire alarm either,” she added.

The parents received a message shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday that all schools within GUSD would be open. Rosemont and Monte Vista were still without power on Friday morning.

La Crescenta Elementary did not have electricity through Tuesday, Carlson said.  After she contacted the district, it was decided “that Tuesday would be a pupil free day and teachers would meet at La Cañada Country Club.”

At Rosemont, Principal Dr. Cynthia Livingston made the experience into an adventure.

“I just told kids that we would get through it and that it was just another adventure,” she said.

Rosemont seventh grade students Aliana  Dipiazza, Akila Ganapathi and Kalea Girroir appreciated Livingston’s outlook on the day, however they still had concerns.
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“It was hard walking down the stairs,” said Akila.

“And I was worried about safety. The cameras are supposed to be there to keep us safe, but the power is out so they didn’t work,” Aliana said.

When asked, Aliana and Kalea said they didn’t like the surveillance cameras when they first arrived at Rosemont but after realizing they were gone, they were worried about safety issues.

“We shouldn’t have had school,” Kaela said.

Garcia said the district will be reviewing the incident, as is normal with any emergency response.