I am writing to express my concerns regarding the recent response by the school district in the aftermath of our recent wind storms. I feel that the events uncovered several areas of weakness in the emergency plan and communication plan that our schools use that should be addressed immediately.
Other school districts like La Canada, Pasadena, and Arcadia all had communications out to families by phone blasts and website postings and radio releases by 6 a.m. Thursday. They had made assessments and shared the information with the school families in several ways.
The lack of power did not limit their ability to get the information out. Our school district sent out NO communication. All lines to the district offices and schools were overloaded. Per the police, schools were open. And they were open.
On arrival at the middle school, Mr. Yim confirmed school was open and welcomed the kids. Did he know that many of the staff had not arrived and the school was dark? I found it hard to believe as I drove away trying to get to work only to find a multitude of blocked streets, down power lines etc. How could our district allow kids to walk through the neighborhoods to school with such unknown and surrounding dangers?
Then 15 minutes later, my daughter called to say that there would be no food or water sold from the cafeteria since they had no power. How can a school open if there is no way to feed or hydrate the kids? Or at least there should have been some communication that there would be no cafeteria prior to the start of school.
How can kids be sitting in the dark and half of them without any teachers when this could all have been prevented? Fifteen minutes later, I get a call from my child saying the kids were to be sent home. Still no communication from the school district and now I am miles away from them.
Subsequently there was chaos. Kids walked away from the school alone toward unknown dangers; others left with friends without anyway to track where they went and with whom; there was a feeble attempt by yelling staff to try to have kids leave with designated emergency contacts; parents arrived and could not find their kids for some time; the location of kids on campus was unknown etc. etc.
Later that day, there was a message stating "that due to ongoing safety concerns" school would remain closed on Friday. Didn't they have any of these concerns before school was opened on Thursday?
I really believe this non-emergent incident (school districts all over the country deal with severe weather) exposed significant weaknesses that need to be addressed with urgency—so that we are indeed prepared for a REAL emergency.
I feel that our children’s safety was not at the forefront of the decision-making that morning, and we should be ashamed for that. I myself am ashamed that I took my kids and placed them in the care of a school that had not been adequately assessed for risks or issues. I should have turned around and taken them home immediately, but I trusted the school district. That was a mistake too.
There are even rumors that the opening of school was intentional in order to receive the state funding that would be lost for a closed school day. I hope this is inaccurate and false—and I hate to think that money comes before safety in South Pasadena. I doubt ANY parent would agree to that. I want to believe that this was due to a poor plan of communication, decision making and action.
I expect that the school district will face these weaknesses and errors head on. I heard that principals said they were waiting to hear what to do. Can’t they make decisions regarding the safety of our kids? Aren’t they the leaders for the schools?
We also heard that the superintendent was out of town. So what? Isn’t there a succession plan for emergency assessment and decision making? We need to review and share the plans for communication and emergency with the community with transparency as quickly as possible.
Our schools have been hailed as excellent. Unfortunately, last week we were not and our kids could have suffered as a result.