By Peter Becker
The power stayed on at all the Wallenpaupack schools during Hurricane Sandy, but like other Pocono area school districts, kids had a week off from school.
At Wallenpaupack South Elementary in Newfoundland, over 130 storm weary residents were able to stop in for a shower or recharge their cell phones, etc.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the storm, Wallenpaupack has seen a slight temporary rise in enrollment, thanks to storm victims from the coast taking refuge in their vacation homes.
The School District Board were briefed on the storm's impact at their Nov. 12th meeting.
Superintendent Michael Silsby stated that state law requires that although the five class days lost (Oct. 29- Nov. 2) were due to a declared emergency, they still have to be made up.
The District accounted for seven "snow days" in the school calendar, which leaves them only two as they head into the winter. Silsby reviewed the calendar and found dates were not scheduled for call but cold be used if necessary- Jan. 18, Feb. 18, March 29, April 1 and June 13.
Silsby stated that this would not impact the graduation date. The 180-day requirement must be met by June 30.
Classes needed to be cancelled due to the numerous roads that had become blocked by fallen trees and utility wires. Many families were also without power for days.
While not clear how many students have been temporarily added to the Wallenpaupack ranks thanks to the storm, Silsby noted a rise in enrollment from October. The handout given to the Board shows there were 3,418 enrolled in October. As of November 5, there were 3,434.
Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Joann Hudak stated that the storm highlighted the need to have an emergency plan in place, and enactment of that plan went very well.
Shelter agreements are in place with the American Red Cross Wayne Pike Chapter, although no overnight shelters were opened here. Hudak stated that the requests for shelters must be made by the county Emergency Operation Centers (EOC) in either Wayne or Pike, who determine the need.
On the Friday before the storm, school officials discussed implementation of the plan. Hudak stated in contact with the Red Cross as well as the county EOCs.
Peter Hooker, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator for Wayne County, contacted the School District asking to make use of the school in Newfoundland. Hudak said that numerous people took advantage of the facility to refresh themselves during the scattered power outage. The high school and middle school could have been used but Pike County decided there was not a need, she said.
District teams were on call. Hudak stated that their food service personnel could have been brought in if necessary to provide food. Expense reimbursement would have been requested from FEMA.
Silsby stated that there is a concern about having enough electrical power should any of their schools be marshaled into use as amass-care shelter. He said that their emergency generators only provide power for lights had an outage affected the school. There wold not have been electricity to provide water, heat or to cook food.
He said they have investigated purchasing large-scale generators but the cost would be high. He did not recommend pursuing it at this point. The county has portable generators, Hudak interjected, which could have perhaps supplied power for the cafeteria or gymnasium but not for an entire school building.
The District also has been meeting regularly with local fire chiefs Hudak said that they will soon be given a tour to inspect the new geothermal well energy system.