This afternoon we dismissed Worthingway Middle School students at 12:30 P.M. because of a water main break just west of the school. The break effected all water to the school and thus created challenges with operating safely and effectively. Dismissing students from school early is a never an easy decision. Here’s what happened this morning.
Around 6:30 A.M. Worthingway custodians discovered that the water pressure in the school was very low. With older schools, in older neighborhoods, this sometimes happens. The Worthingway custodians contacted their principal, Nathan Kellenberger, and our Worthington Schools maintenance supervisor. Within half an hour Worthington’s maintenance staff was on-site and was looking into the water issue. They determined that the cause of the water pressure was not within the building and thus the Columbus Division of Water was notified. By 7:30 A.M. they were also on site and investigating.
The first class at Worthingway began at 7:45 A.M. Most students do not begin school until 8:50 A.M. but they are on their school bus and in route by 7:55 A.M. There was a short window to determine if school should be canceled or should run. Our Exectutive Director of Administrative Services, George Joseph, was apprised of the situation and was able to present two options.
The first option was simple: cancel school for the day for just Worthingway. We did not know how long the water would be off and thus, this made some sense. But, by this time, many parents have left middle school students home alone to get on the school bus, and many students would already be at the bus stop.
The second option was to bring kids to school and try to continue the educational process. Mr. Joseph had secured portable restrooms, as many cases of water and hand sanitizer as needed, and Donatos Pizza for student lunches.
Dr. Tucker, Mr. Joseph, Mr. Kellenberger and I discussed the situation. In trying to error on the side of keeping kids safe we determined it was best to continue busing and to bring students to school. If water was restored quickly we could have a normal day. If it was not, we could muddle through with portable restrooms and bottled water.
Around 9:15 A.M. we were informed by the Columbus Division of Water that they could not find the source of the leak and that they would need to begin excavating the ground. There was no chance the water would be in the school before the 3:50 P.M. student dismissal. Again we huddled. At this point we decided that because students and staff were unprepared for this situation, running the entire day without water was not in their best interest, and if we dismissed at 12:30 P.M. we would be able to feed students lunch, and hopefully provide parents with enough time to make plans to safely pick-up students or arrange for supervised care at home.
At approximately 9:15 A.M. that is the decision that was made. Parents were notified, students made phone calls, information was sent to the newspaper, television channels, etc. Unfortunately, since Worthingway sounds like Worthington, one of the news channels put out information that all Worthington schools were dismissing early. This caused confusion for families, even after it was corrected.
I spent the morning at Worthingway. I passed out bottled water. I supervised students who needed to use the restroom. Mostly, I watched Worthingway students and staff handle a difficult situation well. Our students were awesome! They adapted to different conditions and went on with the day. That’s saying something for middle school kids. Our staff was awesome as well. Principal Kellenberger and his team made the day work.
We’re told we should have water tomorrow. Lights are being brought in and crews are prepared to work well into the night. If we do have power, we’re set. If we don’t, we plan to still have school. The portable restrooms are in place, bottled water and hand sanitizer is on stand-by, and the weather report is for above average temperatures and sunny skies. Today prepared us. We would have a close to normal day.
Did we make the right decisions this morning? That’s always hard to determine and often the right decision is in the eye of the beholder. Right decision or not, I do think we made the decisions that we thought would keep kids safe. That’s our first priority.