Fire Bluff: School Faces Technical Issues

Fire+Bluff%3A+School+Faces+Technical+Issues

Andrea Montenegro Polanco, Staff Reporter

Fire Bluff: School Faces Technical Issues

Flour Bluff High School has recently dealt with several power outages, some of which set-off small electrical fires within the AC system. These incidents have disrupted the school day frequently, leaving both students and staff confused. Despite the situation, administration strives to be transparent and better prepared in the future. 

The power outages, which began on March 18, 2019, were caused by factors outside of the school’s control. The American Energy Power Company (AEP), along with the City of Corpus Christi, scheduled times during the school day to shut-off power.

Though the outages were minor, the return of power to the school resulted in small electrical fires in two out of the six instances. These fires started when the motors of AC units burned out. In the case of the outage in October, there was smoke, but no fire was found. 

“We never had a raging fire, but the minute someone says ‘something is on fire’, our job is to get you out of the building and safe,”

— Mr. Crenshaw

In addition to this, there was a fire set in the 200 hall girl’s bathroom by a student on September 5th, 2019. This was completely separate from the outage issues. The student was caught and disciplined through the school as well as law enforcement. 

When reflecting on how the situations were handled, Principal James Crenshaw admits he had to adapt. By reflecting with his team, Crenshaw was able to find ways to be more efficient. 

“The first couple [outages] I evacuated you guys and got you across the street,” he explained.” After that, I got to thinking: how many rooms, if there was a power outage and no fire, could people stay where they are?”

He investigated and found that  40% of the school has access to natural light. So, instead of evacuating, he chose to move the other 60% to areas with sufficient lighting. This strategy kept students from being out in the heat and preserved normalcy within their schedules. 

Administration was also working to form an agreement with AEP.  After negotiations with Superintendent David Freeman, the company agreed to schedule shut-off times outside of the school day.

Though there was now an understanding, outages continued. In one case, the outage was caused by a car that ran into a pole. So, instead of working to stop the outages, maintenance checked AC units around the school to prevent fires caused by burnt-out motors. 

In preventing the fires, Crenshaw hoped to keep the evacuations to a minimum. 

“We never had a raging fire, but the minute someone says ‘something is on fire’, our job is to get you out of the building and safe,” he explained. 

Despite Crenshaw’s best efforts, many students remain confused during the outages. Sophomore Kritika Adhikari believes that administration could improve when handling these issues.

“I think it would be better if students were made more aware of what’s going on,” she said. “The confusion leads to students going home, which is worse for our school and all the kids.” 

Adhikari’s concern stems from issues regarding attendance. During some outages, students were told that leaving school would be considered an excused absence. Naturally, a great number of people left, but were not made aware that this absence would be counted in the calculation for semester exam exemptions. 

“There definitely could be improvements in communication,” Adkhikari added.

Other students, like sophomore Iliana Ruiz, don’t mind the power outages. Ruiz thinks that administration has improved in the way the situations are handled. 

“The power outages at our school are interesting, because I don’t think every school has them,” she said. “It’s a different experience.” 

There is no telling when the outages will stop affecting the school. But, in regards to how the school will respond in the future, Crenshaw plans to work  towards finding more efficient solutions to this problem. He admitted that having good students makes his job much easier. 

“I could not do that without this student body,” he said. “You guys are the best.”