Power Outages Affect Distance Learning


The strong winds caused a tree to fall on Fremont Boulevard near Washington High School. (Picture Credit: Fremont USD)

On Jan. 27, many residents of the Fremont Unified School District lost power due to the severe storms and winds affecting the Bay Area, resulting in some students and staff becoming unable to attend classes. Select school campuses also faced damages due to the turbulent weather.

“There was some damage to schools mainly due to the wind,” explained Irvington High School Principal Amanda Melsby. “Washington high school had a big tree that blocked the street which the staff had to take care of. Irvington just had some minor damages.”

Some teachers such as Mrs. Hallford were unable to teach their Zoom classes due to the power outages. The teachers had to quickly contact principal Melsby for a short notice substitute teacher for their virtual classes.

“Luckily, I was able to walk up the hill and receive a cell-phone signal,” stated Mrs. Hallford. “I texted Mrs. Melsby and let her know that I was isolated without any service and would not be able to log onto Zoom.”

Mrs. Hallford debated driving to school that day, but the unpredictable wind and weather made it  difficult to reach school safely. The next day, when she felt more comfortable driving in the weather, Mrs. Hallford drove to Irvington High School to use the school-provided wifi to teach her virtual classes.

Irvington’s protocol for power outages or technical difficulties experienced by teachers is to immediately notify Principal Melsby so she can find a substitute teacher. Several students also faced power outages and the protocol for them is somewhat similar to calling in an absence during in-person learning.

“As for students, the protocol would be that the parent would need to email the attendance clerk,” stated Principal Melsby. “Typically, it is a professional courtesy for the student to also email their teachers to let them know.”

However, Principal Melsby explained that there has been some confusion recently as students will only email their teachers about their absence without having a parent contact the attendance clerks. Teachers can only mark a student absent but cannot excuse an absence, making it essential that parents contact office administration as well.

“The biggest hardship is that students and teachers can’t get onto their classes or the teacher can’t teach,” explained principal Melsby. “It definitely creates some stress for anyone who can’t log into their zoom class and sees the clock ticking as their class is just about to begin.”