Thursday November 1, 2012

Parents of some 400 children are likely heaving a sigh of relief today as Berkshire Country Day School in Stockbridge and the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School re-open after being closed for three consecutive days this week.

The private schools, both located within National Grid service zones, joined the rest of the county in closing their schools on Monday and Tuesday due to threats of dangerous weather produced by Hurricane Sandy. Subsequent power outages from storm damage forced administrators to keep schools shut down on Wednesday.

"On the whole, we’re incredibly grateful for parents," said John Greene, administrator for the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School.

The school, located on West Plain Road in Great Barrington, hosts about 200 students from kindergarten through Grade 8.

The school’s power was assessed and fully restored around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

The administrator said the school will do its best to catch up academically, and will try to reschedule student athletic events. The only thing the school won’t make up is Wednesday’s Halloween festivities.

Greene said that a lack of a power supply to a school raises concerns about the availability of water, septic system, fire alarms and food for both students and staff, which "is a huge liability."

In Stockbridge, Paul Lindenmaier, head of Berkshire Country Day School, had the same decision to make when he found the campus without power. The school enrolls about 200 students from preschool to Grade 9.

No power lines specifically fell on campus, located on Interlaken Road along Route 183, but BCD and some of its neighbors, including Kripalu, were affected.

"First, the BCD community extends its sympathy and support to anyone who has been negatively impacted by the storm, especially those that have experienced any kind of loss," said Lindenmaier via email to The Eagle on Wednesday.

He said he was able to keep in constant communication with National Grid, which was working on a number of lines affected in Stockbridge, as well as the school community.

Lindenmaier said BCD has extra days built into its calendar for missed days such as these and snow days.

"As of today, we have not used all of them, and we will begin considering how to best make up any additional days in excess of the number built in should we use more than the allotted number of our extra days this year," Lindenmaier said on Wednesday.

Unlike public schools, private schools are not required by the state to budget snow or emergency days into their academic calendars. Still, both Greene and Lindenmaier said they are focused on keeping task with time on learning.

Students and staff of Pittsfield Public Schools ended up with a five-day break of sorts, including a scheduled in-service day off last Friday, the weekend, and Monday and Tuesday off due to storm threats.

"It’s too early to predict what affect this will have [on the school year]," said Gordon Noseworthy, interim superintendent for the Pittsfield school district.

He compared the days off to spring break and the Christmas vacation, and said it should have a minimal effect on student learning.

"Last year, we lost all our [emergency] days in October and sailed through the winter. A hurricane is a hurricane and the safety of children comes first. Š [This break] is no different from having time off at Christmas or April vacation. As long as we stay within the calendar, we’ll be able to make [the days up] at the end of the school year," he said.