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The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

UPDATE: Amador Valley works to recover daily operations after gymnasium fire

As the soot settles around last night’s small gym fire, Amador attempts to return to a normal school environment.
The+interior+of+Amador%E2%80%99s+small+gym+was+surveyed+by+LPFD+and+district+officials+at+9%3A20+a.m.%2C+the+morning+after+the+fire+was+extinguished.+%28Provided+by+Patrick+Gannon%29
The interior of Amador’s small gym was surveyed by LPFD and district officials at 9:20 a.m., the morning after the fire was extinguished. (Provided by Patrick Gannon)

In light of last night’s fire in the Amador Valley High School’s small gym, Pleasanton Unified School District officials and Amador administrators made the decision to continue academic instruction on Monday, March 18, 2024. Just eleven hours after the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department officially stopped the fire timer, classes began at the normal starting time. 

“Bathrooms continue to be open, however we must close them when they are vandalized by students such as the fire that was started by a student in one of the restroom waste bins,” said PUSD Director of Communications Patrick Gannon.

During brunch, a student in the M building boys bathroom lit a trash can on fire. The situation was quickly attended to and all students on the scene walked away unscathed. An alarm went off again and students began to evacuate until School Secretary Nikki Brown announced an all clear at 11:12 a.m. over the speaker system.

“The fire last evening was contained to the small gymnasium and the rest of campus was inspected and deemed safe. As a standard safety protocol, PG&E turned off power to the grid connected to the small gym which impacted most of the Amador Valley campus. We have been working with local and state authorities since last evening to have the small gym inspected so that power can be restored. PG&E was on site this morning (~10 a.m.) and we expect power to be fully restored to campus within the hour,” said Gannon.

Office staff were told not to talk to the media regarding the situation, and were unable to comment to any media source. This decision was made in order to have one line of communication, in this situation being AV Principal Jon Fey and Gannon.

“Thank you guys for your patience as buildings are being powered up and electricity still being restored, we may experience false alarms with the alarm systems. Please let us check the alarms first prior to evacuation. We want to make sure that we are not evacuating based on false alarms,” said Fey over the alarm system at 11:13 a.m..

Students remain in class with PG&E working on power, and as of 10:49 a.m. power was restored to many parts of campus. 

When students arrived on campus Monday morning to find vehicles from PUSD’s facilities department parked in front of the building and a temporary barricade installed in front of the small gym. Wet concrete, dirt, and soot were still present from the night before with smoke still hanging in the air and nearby buildings such as Q overwhelmed with the scent.

Overnight a large movement formed online in the hours immediately after the fire, with over 1,200 people signing a petition calling for the Amador administration to cancel the school day. Many people cited the possible negative health effects that could be caused due to extended exposure to the site so soon after the fire. 

California State Guidelines for canceling a given school day requires the recommendation to act based on several yes or no questions, including if access to the site is affected, the facilities have backup power or adequate daylight to continue classes, or if the site can maintain fire alarms through the use of backup power.

The sudden fire raises several questions about school operations, with the power outage, lack of the internal phone system and Wi-Fi, as well as the lack of activity and instruction in classrooms. 

Despite the district’s hopes, power was not restored by the start of classes on Monday. The school could have potentially been closed for the day, as with the majority of campus without power, Wi-Fi, Bells, Fire Alarms, public address systems, and internal phone lines became unavailable, disturbing even administration jobs.

With the girls locker room connected to the small gym, questions and concerns were raised as students worried about their PE shoes, clothing, and other belongings that they had kept inside their lockers. With barricades in place to prevent injury, students are also unable to retrieve their belongings. 

Amador administration emailed families at 9:51 p.m. on Sunday, officially revealing the fire and asking that families monitor their emails and text messages for additional information about operations for Monday. However in a follow-up email sent at 1:57 a.m., they said that “As a precaution, PG&E switched off power to a majority of the campus,” and that  “Once the fire inspector has cleared the building, power will be restored to campus which we anticipate will occur by Monday morning.”

In an email sent to staff at 11 p.m. on Sunday, Gannon said, “we’re grateful to our local fire authorities for containing the fire to the small gym- no other areas of campus were affected […] School will resume as normal tomorrow [3/18] with the exception of activities planned inside the small gym.”

Although AV Journalism was unable to find information regarding Pleasanton’s policy for power outages, Livermore’s policy states the following: “Schools can remain open and operational even with a power outage for periods of time if relative conditions are cooperative. Specifically, schools can remain open during a power outage if conditions are optimal and necessary accommodations can be made for child nutrition and student safety. For example, if the weather is moderate and heating or air conditioning is not essential, we can continue without power.”

The California Department of Education requires that for a school day to count towards the 180 day per school year requirement, “The average of the total instructional minutes scheduled over a span of 2 consecutive school days is equivalent to or greater than the minimum school day of 240 minutes and any given school day is not less than 180 minutes.”

Had the school day been canceled as a result of the fire, administration would need to put in a request for special and uncommon circumstances in order to not make up the day.

“I was in third period in the C building and I had Ms. Templeton. When I was there, there were like 6 people and we saw a huge crowd in line for the attendance office outside. Everyone else in my class left, they just grabbed their bags and left,” said Liane Ghazanfar (’25).

While the true extent of the damage is being assessed, the small gym is still standing. The school’s focus was primarily for the power to be turned back on. Damage was surveyed before power on the grid connecting to the small gym can be reinstated. Most buildings on Amador’s campus are on this same power infrastructure.

As of 9:36am, the school announced via e-mail that PG&E crews were en route to campus to restore power, and that the state was asked to inspect the gym. Since the city does not have access to blueprints of the school, the state was asked to show up to survey the building via the protocol for such situations. 

Some teachers let their students have a free period, while others such as math teacher Kyle Riddle opted to teach outside with a portable whiteboard and his students with notebooks. Classes that require computers and internet access, such as computer science, opted to do practice problems for their upcoming AP test. Many teachers who depend on technology for their lessons were forced to make up new lessons throughout their day. 

The electricity was restored to the J building at 10:49 a.m with Wi-Fi coming on at 10:57. Building clocks restarted shortly after, however after being offline, they displayed the wrong time for several minutes. 

“Everyone did a fantastic job. A lot of our district offices were here, board members, a lot of people were involved to make sure that everything was safe…We’re working together as a team and that’s what is great about this is that everyone’s working together really well to make this happen,” said AV Coordinator of Operations Dwight Pratt. 

At the time of publication, we were unable to confirm how many students left campus during the day or what the rest of the school day will look like as of right now.

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