Some schools have snow days.
In Wellington we have wind days.
Wellington is windy at the best of times but there winds recorded in excess of 200km an hour with 15m swells along the south coast.
On Thursday night a lack of buses in the CBD due to a storm had me walking home. As I heard reports of public transport being cancelled I went to bed wondering how on earth I would get to school in the morning if the train lines in the city remained closed.
What I hadn’t realised was how bad the storm had been.
All school buses in Wellington were cancelled and there was warning against non-essential travel due to the state of the roads. The area where my school is located and had been subjected to power outages and sure enough my school had no power until midday. With cold temperatures and high winds, the decision was made to close the school.
It’s amazing that within 45 minutes the conversations turned from how am I getting to school, to should I go to school, to alerting my students and their families not to come to school.
After I sent an email alerting parent to the closure and updating our class blog, I realised that many of my students families would be without power which would mean they wouldn’t be able to check emails. So I went old-fashioned and called or texted my out of zone students’ families to let them know about the closure.
However there are some takeaways from the experience.
The importance of the cloud
If all student information was stored locally on school-based servers there’s no way I would have been able to call my hard to reach and out of zone families to give them a heads-up that school had been cancelled. With no power in the suburb, teachers who were based in other parts of the city had quick and easy access to information despite the school server being offline. It also meant that many schools could update webpages despite power being off.
The importance of networks
I cannot understate how awesome the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office was at giving updates on their facebook page. However this got me thinking about how each school in New Zealand is an island. The advice for parents wanting to know about school closures was to check in with their local schools. Schools with no power and/or limited staff onsite were then put into a position of trying to get word out on limited resources. Families with kids at multiple schools were reliant on the media to find out information.
The power of connection
Even without class, a few of my students dropped by the classroom blog and leave a few comments. Technology is changing the way we communicate with each other.
Technology has become increasingly important in education, for a variety if reasons, not the least of which is safety as you’ve shown. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I didn’t have a virtual connection to my daughters’ school, like some of the parents of my students. And I get a bit frustrated in not being able to connect with my students’ parents via email. Technology is leaving some of these kids behind!
When SARS hit in 2003, my international school had to figure out how to keep educating students when school was closed for multiple weeks.
Technology in 2008 wasn’t nearly as easy to navigate then, much less a tool for building connections and fostering community. Whenever I read posts on severe weather school closures, I remember that we need to keep our school tech current so that community and communication can continue when we can’t be face-to-face.