Friday, August 26, 2011

Battening down the hatches at Worcester Public Schools

I've just received the following email from Chief Financial and Operations Officer, Brian Allen, regarding the district's preparation for incoming Hurricane Irene:

With regards to facilities:  we are currently taking proactive measures to make sure buildings are secure and roof drains are clear.  Immediately after the storm, we have scheduled mandatory building checks at most of our locations, particularly those sites that have historical issues with water infiltration during heavy storms.    We currently do not plan to activate building custodians until employees can travel safely from their homes to school facilities.  All schools will also have external checks after the storm as well by the key facilities staff.  Depending on the potential wind damage, we are prepared to inspect the all buildings for downed trees, broken windows, or other issues due to the storm.

We’ve established a command center and we plan to have it fully operational during the storm.  The Superintendent, Facilities Director, key facilities personnel and myself will be in constant communication during the storm.  We have also begun planning with the city’s Emergency Management Department for the use of school facilities as shelter locations within the city if necessary.  School Nutrition staff will be preparing these locations to accommodate city residents.  We will also be in contact with DPW (as we do with any weather event) regarding city street conditions. 

By the end of today, we will have three “ready-response” vehicles equipped for quick deployment to schools.  There will be a “wet response” vehicle – equipped with pumps, generators, wet/dry vacs, etc. in order to respond to any location with water infiltration.   We will also have a “wind response” vehicle – equipped with plywood, circular saws, and chainsaws – in order to address any building with tree or wind damage.  We also will have a utility vehicle available with extra fuel and other supplies (tarps, chains, etc.).  All other facilities vehicles and equipment will be ready as needed to respond to any school.  Carpentry and electrical staff will be on stand-by to address any building needs.  We have also made contact with our roof and sewerage contractors to be available for emergency response, and our emergency supply vendor should be available in case we need supplies immediately after the storm.  We also have a heavy equipment contractor on stand-by in case we need trees or other materials removed from school properties.  We will also be in communication with the city’s building inspector for his guidance and support if necessary.

With regards to school operations:  the Administrative team will make a determination about the first staff reporting day on Monday sometime Sunday night or Monday morning based on the condition of city streets and our facilities.  Some out-of-district special education placements that are already operating have canceled classes for Monday.  Spirit of Knowledge Charter School and Seven Hills Charter School are scheduled for a pupil session day on Monday and we’ve been in communication with them, and in this case since we are not operational on Monday with students, they will be responsible for determining their operational status for the day (and will contact Durham School Services directly).

Let’s all hope that the storm weakens or changes path that will carry much of the rain and wind offshore.  Otherwise, we believe that we are as prepared as we can be to respond given the number our number of locations.

More information as I get it!

No comments: