EDC school leaders educate Gov. Newsom on PSPS impacts

EDC school leaders educate Gov. Newsom on PSPS impacts

00:00 AM - October 31, 2019

On Thursday, October 31, Governor Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visited El Dorado County and Blue Oak Elementary School to learn about the impacts of the recent PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). Gov. Newsom and Superintendent Thurmond met with El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ed Manansala, Buckeye Union School District (BUSD) Superintendent Dr. David Roth, and several BUSD officials to hear first-hand about the challenges that school officials encounter when making decisions regarding school closures.

Throughout October, PSPS events disrupted nine school days, during which time up to 38 different school sites were unable to open, resulting in a loss of 201 instructional days. County Superintendent Manansala explained, “These uncertain circumstances place hardships on students and families, and we are grateful for their understanding and patience. Our 15 school districts are extremely diverse in terms of size, student population, geographic location and elevation level. School closure decisions are made at the local district level, and school officials consider many factors including safety, security, health (medication storage), heat, well water, food storage, ability to cook meals, sewage systems, access to generators and communication systems. Many districts endured multiple days without power and remained closed, lacking the resources to operate safely under these conditions. I am proud of our educational leaders who are working tirelessly to manage these uncertain circumstances.”

On Monday, October 28, BUSD did not have electricity at three schools – Blue Oak Elementary, Buckeye Elementary, and Camerado Springs Middle School – and district officials took measures that allowed them to open for class during the single, school-day power outage. At a press conference held at Blue Oak Elementary School, Superintendent Roth explained, “My team has joined me today – Board President Brenda Hanson-Smith Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Jackie McHaney, Blue Oak Principal Rachelle Ball, Camerado Springs Principal Doug Shupe and Facilities Director Brian McCahon. Over the weekend, we received word that three sites would be without power this last Monday, so with my committed leadership team, we swung into action and began planning on how we might open those sites. Our first consideration was student and family safety including the implementation of on-foot fire watch patrol and generators to keep telephone lines operational. Other considerations included communication with families, food availability, lighting and more.”

Gov. Newsom addressed reporters and acknowledged the indirect consequences of lost classroom time, “Schools are not just places of learning, it’s about a different maturation. It’s about a different connection to one another, and any disruption to that has a real impact on children.” He went on to explain the steps that state leaders are taking to strengthen systems and plan for future uncertainty.  

State Superintendent Thurmond noted, “Future proposals may include rethinking the traditional school calendar and building in makeup days to deal with not only natural disasters but unplanned power outages. In addition, Governor Newsom has proposed a $15 billion bond to fund back-up generators and solar panels to keep schools open during an unforeseen power outage.”

After the conference, County Superintendent Manansala expressed, ”I am grateful for all of our school district and El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE) leaders and team members. Many of them were without power at their homes and remained steadfastly dedicated to their school duties while also managing challenges at home. These PSPS events were a true testament of El Dorado County’s spirit and resiliency.”

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