MDUSD continues to evaluate responses to emergency

Every day, our educators, support staff and school site administrators plan on coming to school to care for more than 30,000 students in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD).

Whenever we must halt that learning, or we are forced to change the trajectory of those plans due to circumstances beyond our control, there is frustration at the possibility of not providing a planned lesson and not being able to engage with the students to help propel them toward success in their lives.

Some individuals believe our decisions to remain open during the recent fires, poor air quality days and power outages were directly related to money that the district receives on a daily basis – the Average Daily Attendance (ADA).

To be clear, the decision to keep a facility open in times of crisis or during events that are directly out of our control is made with the safety and security for all of our children in mind. Nothing more, nothing less.

While some believe we should never operate a school on a day with adverse air conditions, high winds, fires in parts of California or loss of power, the process we continue to use at MDUSD, like so many other districts, will be to attempt to keep schools open for children as long as we can do so in a safe, orderly fashion that provides the intended secure environment.

Plans not always enough

Unfortunately, the best conceived plans can sometimes not be enough to maintain a safe and secure environment for everyone involved: students, employees and even the public. If that circumstance outweighs our intent to provide a safe and secure campus, we will take steps to close a facility or keep a facility closed until we can safely reopen.

Over this last month, we were without power on several school days at several sites. We worked to maintain those schools in a safe and secure manner, handling the logistics of providing food to students in alignment with processes approved by the Contra Costa County health inspector and maintaining security at these campuses for our children.

Also during this last month, we had two situations where we worked to keep schools open when we should have changed direction sooner and facilitated the canceling of school or made a better decision that would not have placed students in situations that were not the best.

After we had a water main burst at Oak Grove Middle School, we anticipated that support services would be on the way – including porta-potties and hand-washing stations from a local vendor. But they did not arrive at the campus for far too long, creating a difficult circumstance for everyone involved.

Rather than closing Northgate High School during the week of PG&E’s “Public Safety Power Shutoff,” we attempted to start school in the morning. As the morning proceeded, we more fully realized the difficulties of maintaining the campus during an extended outage.

While I cannot change the past, I do apologize for the events that unfolded at both of these schools and will work to improve our decisions, actions, processes and protocols with respect to responding to these types of events in the future.

The district is undergoing a comprehensive review of the architectural safety of each of our campuses, and we will also be adding a director of Risk Management and Safety in order to more thoroughly ensure that we have plans in place to respond to any crisis, man-made or otherwise, for the safety and protection of our students.

Send comments to