Breaking News: Storm weather, power outage and shelter in place order disrupts CAASPP testing


Raphael Semeria

A tree branch falls on overhead power lines, causing a large park.

On Tuesday, March 21, strong winds caused disturbances on campus, prompting an emergency response from administrators. At some point during PRIME, a tree branch toppled on a power line in the main parking lot, resulting in a large spark. Power outages and Wi-Fi loss also occurred because of the high winds and storm weather. This series of events resulted in Gunn administration directing students to shelter in place for part of PRIME and second period. Additionally, administrators paused the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Test which juniors were taking.

At 1:20 p.m., power went out throughout campus. Around this time, administration received a report that a large tree branch had fallen on a power line in the parking lot, causing a large spark. Principal Wendy Stratton and other administrators called emergency services and oversaw the immediate response. “We heard that (a tree branch) was down so we moved to a shelter in place for the campus before we could assess it,” she said. “We assessed it and saw that the wire was fine. The power outage was another thing that was happening at the same time. (The two events) are not necessarily linked.”

Because of the power outage, the school-wide intercom was disabled. Administrators emailed all teachers at 1:30 p.m. to enforce a shelter-in-place order while they could determine whether it was safe for students to proceed to their next class. “We were just taking precautions,” Stratton said. “We did not think anyone was at risk.” 

Teachers without access to their school email on their phones (or who were not connected to Wi-Fi via hotspot) may not have been able to receive directives from the administration. Without knowledge of the shelter-in-place order, some classes were let outside. Students who were off-campus during PRIME may also have been unaware of the situation on campus, too. 

Physics teacher James Lincoln updated his CAASPP testing classroom on the current situation. “This is a significant hazard, so we are sheltering in place,” he said. Since the black-out was unexpected, there was no contingency plan in place, according to Lincoln. 

Juniors working on the English Language Arts Computer Adaptive Test portion of the assessment were told they could complete it at a later time, possibly during Wednesday’s testing session. “It looks like we’re going to have to look at the CAASPP testing schedule because they had no access to the Wi-Fi to finish,” Stratton said.

Junior Sophia Turean was distressed by the prospect of having to finish the test on another day. “I feel a little upset because I want to finish my CAASPP test,” she said. “I don’t want to have to redo it because it didn’t save. I don’t want to do the rest of school in the dark (either).” 

Junior Aeron Man was surprised by the situation. “I think the current wind trends and situation led me to believe that it would be problematic, but I didn’t expect it to be during CAASPP testing, which is the worst situation,” he said. 

At 2:00 p.m., students were released to their second-period classes. Campus supervisors directed students to remain under overhangs and avoid all trees. 

Due to the recent increase in strong winds, the administrators have taken safety precautions toward falling debris, especially as this is the second report of large objects falling on campus in a week. “MOT (Maintenance, Operations and Transportation) has come between last week and this week and they actually assessed all the trees and cut down some limbs that looked fragile,” Stratton said. “There have definitely been efforts made to ensure that if we see something, we do something about it, (but) we can’t anticipate everything.”