Heatwave-induced power outage causes staff to initiate preparation plans


On Wednesday, Sept. 7, at around 7:30 a.m., a power outage affected Southern Palo Alto, including Gunn. While parts of campus experienced shorter outages, power was not restored in the A-J buildings until around 9:15 a.m. The Wi-Fi was also offline for all classrooms until 9:45 a.m.

According to Principal Wendy Stratton, the protocol is for all students to be sent home if Gunn cannot provide safe learning conditions. Since the partial outage posed no danger to students, there was no protocol to close school, which required Principal Wendy Stratton to think quickly. “I had to start pulling together the master schedule [and think about] what rooms on campus weren’t being used,” she said. “I [created] a Google form and [tried] to have some places for people to go [before] the lights came back on.”

Advanced Placement Chemistry teacher Elana Zizmor was on campus before school when the power went out. “I went to the back storeroom where there are skylights, and I used my phone as a hotspot to use the internet,” she said.

However, Zizmor had to adjust her lessons once students arrived since her classroom lacked sufficient natural light. “I moved my activities around,” she said. “The activity we did with molecule [models was] done outside since I didn’t need any technology for it.”

Freshman Maya Drews was in zero period Physical Education during the power outage. “Our class was in the weightlifting room when the lights turned off,” she said. “Everyone—including Mr. McGinn—was pretty surprised because of how sudden it was.”

Administrators are still trying to determine why only parts of Gunn were impacted. “We’re curious to figure out exactly what the power grid looks like and how different parts of Gunn are charged,” Stratton said.

Stratton expects similar events to Wednesday’s power outage in the future. “With the way things are going with our climate, we can probably anticipate more situations interrupting school, [necessitating] emergency preparedness,” she said. “[However,] I have confidence that I can lean on the district for support, and I plan on communicating any updates I receive with teachers.”

Overall, Stratton was proud of how all fifth period classes handled the unexpected circumstances. “I was really impressed that everybody just went with it,” she said. “People came together and we were calm, which shows how awesome of a community Gunn is. Our staff and students showed that they could teach and learn even in different conditions than we’re used to.”