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Longer Wildfire Season Could Mean Extended Academic Year For Some San Diego Schools

Julian Union High School District may be forced to close if SDG&E cuts power ...

Photo by Joe Hong

Above: Julian Union High School District may be forced to close if SDG&E cuts power to the area because of high winds and wildfire risk, Oct. 29, 2019.

Schools in Julian could close for the second time in two weeks due to planned power outages as forceful winds are expected to increase the risk of wildfires in the mountainous community.

As wildfire-related closures become more common, school administrators are worried that the district may not meet state requirements for the minimum number of school days.

“I'm concerned that we eventually will need to extend the school year into the month of June in order for us to get our number of days in,” said Patrick Hefflin, superintendent of Julian Union High School District.

The school district incorporates “emergency days” into its annual academic calendar. These days are considered days off for students and faculty in the spring, but they're exchanged for normal school days if schools close because of snow or fires earlier in the year.

In the 2018-2019 school year, there were two emergency days in the calendar. The district administration allocated four days this year after exceeding last year’s emergency days.

Reported by Joe Hong , Video by Anica Colbert

San Diego Gas and Electric has notified Hefflin and administrators from neighboring districts that the utility company may shut-off power between Wednesday and Friday.

The California Department of Education requires high schools to be open for 180 days each year. After last week’s two-day closure, the district will be required to request a waiver from the state if a planned power outage forces the school to close for three or more days.

With fire season growing longer and more dangerous each year, Hefflin said SDG&E, local communities and school districts have started discussing plans to ensure student safety while maximizing the number of days in school.

Hefflin said one of the proposed short-term plans is to provide schools with generators that would not create the risk of fires. A long-term plan would be to connect the school district to Julian’s underground power grid.

“The school district, SDG&E and the county are all coming together to come up with a viable plan to keep our kids and provide adequate education for all of our children,” she said.

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Schools in Julian could close again this week because of planned power outages as high winds raise the risk of wildfire. How these closures are affecting instruction. Plus, the trial of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, accused of killing a wounded detainee, ended in a debacle. The case has created an urgency to reform Naval military justice. Also, how is California ... Read more →

Aired: October 30, 2019 | Transcript

Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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