By Tracy Correa Lopez
When heavy rains pelted the Bay Area earlier this week, Alta Vista Elementary School in Los Gatos was left in the dark.
But this didn’t stop students and teachers from conducting business as usual or, almost usual.
District officials made the decision that an outage — despite the school being without lights, power and heat — was not going to get in the way of learning and held classes Wednesday (Jan. 11) anyway. Helpful in this decision was that the district received timely, personalized information from PG&E minimizing what could have been a frustrating day.
Emails the district sent to parents let them know about the power outage. Follow up notes and texts also suggested that students bundle up for school, which was a minimum day on Wednesday, and report to class.
“It was a very light rain day, just a bit of drizzle, the children would be safe,” Denise Clay, superintendent of Union Elementary School District said in an interview with KNTV (NBC), in the Bay Area. ”There was ample light in the rooms; it was a warm day.”
She also credited PG&E for its constant communication throughout the situation.
“We’ve been working very closely with PG&E,” Clay told the TV station. “They have been in contact with us almost hourly to let us know the status of the outage.”
Key to the district’s positive experience was PG&E’s Alinda Martinez-Smith, division operations specialist based in Cupertino.
Martinez-Smith said she began reaching out to the school just after 7 a.m. Wednesday, although it wasn’t until closer to 8 a.m. that she was able to reach district officials.
“I jumped on it to let them know the situation,” she said. “I provided them hourly or bi-hourly updates.”
The personal updates were provided by Martinez-Smith to the superintendent and her assistant to let them know about the progress being made as crews worked to bring back the power. However, whether to hold classes was a decision that the school district officials would have to make.
Knowing the students would be let out around noon due to the minimum school day likely helped district officials in their decision.
And most of the students didn’t seem to mind going to school even without the modern amenities and technology to which they’ve grown accustomed.
“It was really fun because we got to do math the old-fashioned way,” one female student told KNTV. She shared that she also told students they just needed to “chillax” about the situation.
Martinez-Smith, who worked a 13-hour day that day as part of PG&E’s emergency storm response, said that personally reaching out to a PG&E customer that might be more significantly affected by an outage goes a long way. It did in this case.
“I made a lot of calls that day. But at the end of a 13-hour day I left happy because I felt like I made a difference,” she said.
Email Tracy Correa Lopez at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.