WBUR

Post-Sandy, How 1 Mass. School Held Classes Even Without Power

Bouncing back from a storm like Hurricane Sandy sometimes requires creative thinking, and one example of that happened Wednesday at Deerfield Elementary School in Westwood.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with the Deerfield’s principal, Dr. Allan Cameron, about how his school held classes even though the building still didn’t have power after the storm.

Allan Cameron: Our superintendent, Dr. John Antonucci, met with police and fire to make sure that it was going to be safe for the students to be in school today, and they ascertained that the fire alarms were working and everything was going to be safe for the students. So we thought we’d give it a go.

Sacha Pfeiffer: But they were there without lights?

That’s correct. We’re very fortunate in our school because it’s small and there’s one level and each classroom has a bank of windows. So we have lots of natural light in the classrooms and learning spaces, and we had many battery-operated lanterns in the hallway and the restrooms, so we were able to provide light where necessary.

And I assume you had plumbing, so you did have restrooms the kids could use?

That’s correct. We have battery-operated automatic flushers, so there were no problems there.

Schools are so high-tech today. I mean, many of them have “smart boards” or “active boards” that require electricity. I imagine you couldn’t use those. Did you have chalkboards you could resort to?

Yes. It was an interesting shift. We went back a few decades. Teachers were using the whiteboards that are not electrical and reading from books and using student-made worksheets rather than photocopies. It was a throwback.

Did you feel like the kids were any different in a no-electricity environment?

You know, it’s interesting. Kids are very resilient. I told them this morning we had no electricity. They were excited. When I went and visited every classroom today, they were all engaged and on-task like it was any other day. It was a very productive day for them.

What did you miss most today not having electricity at the school?

Absolutely email and phones. The phones were also down. We used my cellphone as a primary contact so parents could call in or we could call out. But definitely email. It was surprising how much we’ve become reliant on that form of communication.

And I believe you’re the last school in Westwood that doesn’t have its power back?

That’s correct.

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