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