Power outages impact local school districts

MANISTEE — The storm that hit Manistee County in the early morning hours of Thursday impacted classes at two school buildings.

Students at Kaleva Norman Dickson School district where given the day off when a power outage caused a backup of water in several rooms of the Brethren School. Superintendent Marlen Cordes said all the problems were a direct result of the lack of power.

“There was a transformer that went out near our school, so we lost power around the peak storm time at 4 a.m.,” said Cordes. “The way we have some of our roof drains set up we have the water go into some holding tanks and those get pumped out from there into our drain field.”

Cordes said when the power outage occurred it shut down the pumps that send that water to drain field. It also shut down the water to the schools and in essence the bathrooms as well.

“The tanks filled up and then the water found a way back into the school through a floor outlet in the media center and it flooded our library and entryway to the school,” said Cordes. “We also had some issues with some things backing up in our boys bathroom as result of the storm.”

He said the problem wasn’t discovered until later as the regular custodian is off work on a health issue and the substitute doesn’t arrive until later.

“We found it later because of that, so everything kind of happened last minute when we decided to shut down the school,” said Cordes. “We were able to return the kids home who had been picked up and we got word out pretty quickly to everyone else.”

Cordes said he hoped the late notification to cancel classes for the day didn’t cause too many problems for the parents in finding a place to take their children.

“We tried to get the word out as quickly as possible,” said Cordes. “We have Serv Pro in there today removing the water from the library and other areas. Our plans are to have everything ready to hold school on Friday.”

Another electrical transformer on the corner of Third and Elm streets in Manistee caused a power outage that sent about 225 Jefferson Elementary School students two blocks east on Thursday to hold their classes in Kennedy Elementary School.

“It takes a lot of quick planning and effort from staff,” said MAPS assistant elementary principal Kenn Kott. “That is what made the whole thing work this morning. We had to make a decision early on whether or not we were going to get power back at Jefferson.”

Kott said the word that came back from the power company was power might not be restored for the entire school day.

“So, we spent some time over there and then brought them over on the buses here to Kennedy,” said Kott. “We have three big rooms in the music room, band room and art room and they are not being used in the afternoon here, so we were able to bring all the kids over in bits and pieces and fit them in over here.”

Kott said another challenge came during lunch hour to fit that many children into the lunch room along with having enough food for everyone.

“We got all the kids through lunch on time and fed when they were supposed to be, so now we are getting them back to their (temporary) rooms and getting on with the afternoon classes,” said Kott.

The problem did have a silver lining according to Kott.

“A lot of these kids from Jefferson will be coming here next year or the following year, so it gives them a chance to get acquainted with the school,” said Kott.

Elementary School principal Kevin Schmutzler said it was a real team effort to keep learning moving forward under such difficult circumstances.

“It was a talented staff being leaders and adapting to the circumstances,” said Schmutzler. “The staff and students were nothing short of amazing! They never cease to amaze me. I’m truly blessed to work with such a talented group of adults.”

All of the school districts are under the same type of phone system that was put together by the Manistee Intermediate School District. A few buildings experienced some issues on Thursday with their phones due to the storm, but technology director Roy Anciso said power outages around the state caused the problems.

“There wasn’t any damage to the phone system but the lines from the service provider, Clear Rate, are another story,” said Anciso. “The service outage is impacting schools all around the state.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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