Power outage affects Colliers school

COLLIERS – A power outage just before the start of the school day on Feb. 1 resulted in many pupils arriving at Colliers Primary School even though school had been canceled, but staff and school officials there saw that the children received breakfast and were returned safely to their homes.

Marty Bartz, assistant superintendent, said the outage occurred at about 7 a.m., as school buses were picking up children. When the buses arrived, the drivers were advised to remain at the school so the children could be returned home.

Bartz said the school district’s automated calling system was used to alert parents the school would be closed for the day and some parents learned directly of the closing when they stopped to drop off their children. But with no inclement weather that day to suggest a cancelation, a number of parents had gone to work.

Jo-Ellen Goodall, the school’s principal, said about 150 of the school’s 178 pupils reported to school.

Bartz and other county school officials joined staff in calling the children’s parents, using their cell phones, to determine if someone would be home to watch the children.

Because the area has poor cell reception, some staff took their phones to their cars outside to make the calls while Bartz set up a desk just outside the building to make the calls, Goodall said.

Asked about the temperature that morning, Bartz said, “It was pretty chilly.”

Bartz said the building has since been equipped with a booster and battery pack to aid in cell phone transmission. Goodall said some of the children asked for breakfast. Though the school’s kitchen was without power needed to serve hot meals, the staff was able to serve them cold cereal.

She said many families served by the school are financially struggling and depend on the school to provide breakfasts and lunches to the children during the school day.

About 15 children at the school are given backpacks filled with nonperishable food to take home on weekends. The endeavor was begun by members of Weirton Church of the Nazarene.

Bartz said with the help of Bob Fowler, Brooke County director of emergency management, a portable generator has been secured to power the kitchen at Brooke High School, which prepares meals for most Brooke County schools, and other schools as needed.

Bartz said when it was determined someone would be home to watch the children, they were bused home.

As a precaution, the children were accompanied by teachers and maintenance workers with the school district who walked them to their doors to ensure someone was there to watch them, Goodall said.

“They really went above and beyond that day,” she said.

Bartz agreed, saying, “It was just a neat thing to see how everyone worked together.”