By Maddy Lewis
On Thursday, Dec. 11, the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) experienced its first “storm day,” in which all Alameda schools were closed in fear of the largest Bay Area storm to hit in decades. Even colleges around the Bay Area cancelled classes to secure safety amongst all students. Wind gusts of up to 80 miles-per-hour were predicted on top of flash floods and record rainfalls. Public transit also cancelled routes and flights were delayed for several hours.
Despite all the caution beforehand, the storm did not live up to its extensive hype of potential, serious damage. It rained the entire 24 hour day, non-stop, but the winds never amplified enough speed to commit significant catastrophes. While a few trees collapsed and abandoned cars drowned in the downpour, the storm’s performance was not too far from the Bay Area norm.
In addition, California continues to struggle with the most intense drought in hundreds of years–three consecutive years of extreme dryness. Although pictures revealed tons of collected water with residents kayaking in parking lots, closed freeways and clogged drains, the state’s drought is long from over. The storm on Dec. 11 may have fooled Californians, allowing them to forget about the serious problem.
Furthermore, many Alameda High School (AHS) teachers complained about the loss of instructional time in the classroom. Because the storm took place on a block day, many lesson plans, especially in math classes, were interrupted and specific periods–two, three, four and five–fell behind schedule. Especially since no severe damage took place, the day off seemed like a waste of time to some.
Robin Sarvey, a math teacher at AHS, believes AUSD took a “proactive approach” to keeping all students and staff safe during the storm warnings.
However, Sarvey was forced to make certain schedule changes because of the absence, as it created a panic in completing lesson plans efficiently. “It would have been best to make the following Friday a Thursday block schedule,” Sarvey said.
Because AHS ended the week routinely, the math instructor juggled her plans.
“I bought extra water and a portable phone charger because I thought we’d lose power,” Sarvey explained when asked what she did on her day off from work.
Michael Lamb, an Advanced Placement (AP) math teacher at AHS, believed AUSD “should have kept classes going [on Dec. 11] since all schools are emergency evacuation centers.” Lamb stated that he would have preferred to have all students “contained and safe in the same place together.”
Because Alameda’s finals are set for a specific week, Lamb’s lesson plans were “fundamentally” disturbed. “There is no time to get off track,” Lamb explained. Everyday is important in order to grasp the challenging material of an AP class.
On Lamb’s rest day, “My wife forced me to sleep in,” he admitted. Even though he was not allowed on school grounds, he continued to work on Calculus at home.
Because 180 school days are required to fulfill a proper school year, AUSD schools are now considered a day behind. Withal, AUSD has approached the state, requesting to waive the day.
Principal of AHS Robert Ithurburn believes that the district’s attempt will most likely be successful since AHS has “banked extra [school] minutes” that balance out the initial problem. Considering that regular school days account for 370 minutes, most Bay Area schools have completed several minutes over the intended target.
Some teachers remained hopeful that the following Monday would convert into a Thursday block schedule. However, “bell schedule changes require a combined teacher vote of over 60%,” Ithurburn said. After surveying teachers about their preference, the schedule alteration did not pass.
“I think they played it safe,” Ithurburn said about the district’s decision to close schools.