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Portola Valley public schools to close Thursday as PG&E plans power shutoffs

Woodside Priory cancels classes today, tomorrow

Portola Valley Elementary School District schools will be closed tomorrow (Oct. 10), as strong, dry winds across large areas of Northern and Central California have prompted PG&E to turn off power across 30 counties, including San Mateo County, starting today.

Woodside Fire Protection District Marshal Denise Enea warned Portola Valley and Woodside residents to prepare themselves and their households for a fire danger-related power shutoff that is expected to begin at noon today and last up to five days.

"Given the extremely limited means of evacuation from our schools, the significant increased risk of wildfire due to gusty winds and dry conditions, and the power outage, PVSD (Portola Valley School District) schools will be closed on Thursday October 10," Portola Valley district Superintendent Roberta Zarea said in an email to families. "It is unknown if we will have power on Friday. Given the changing conditions, please stay tuned for the status of school on Friday."

Portola Valley district's two schools are remaining open on today, as they are on minimum day schedules, Zarea said.

School will also be open today in the Woodside Elementary School District, as its school is also on a minimum day schedule, said Superintendent Steve Frank. As of Wednesday morning, he had not made a decision on whether the school will be open tomorrow (Thursday).

"Luckily, we are on a minimum day today (Wednesday) so it will have little impact," he said in an Oct. 9 email to The Almanac. "We feel confident that we have a great safety plan in place and have been through many power outages and various situations over the last several years."

The private Woodside Priory in Portola Valley is closed today and will remain closed tomorrow because of the power shutoffs, according to Kelly Sargent, the school's director of communication. School on Friday is pending the restoration of power, Sargent said.

Woodland School in Portola Valley remains open, said Tanya Spishak, the school's director of communications.

The Menlo Park City School District, which has schools in Atherton and Menlo Park, is not likely to be affected by the planned power outages, said Superintendent Erik Burmeister in an Oct. 8 email to district families.

"At this point, Menlo Park and Atherton are not on the list of cities to be affected," he said. "Even if PG&E were to add Menlo Park and Atherton impacting MPCSD schools, all of our schools and programs will be open."

Parke Treadway, the district's public information officer, said today in an email that the only reason the district would close schools is for a health or safety concern.

"The schools are able to function without power," she said. "A short-term, temporary power outage would not present a health or safety concern; were a longer term outage to impact health and/or safety, we would close."

The Las Lomitas Elementary School District's two schools will remain open, said Beth Polito, the district's superintendent.

Sequoia Union High School District schools will likely remain open, according to an Oct. 8 email from Superintendent Mary Streshly.

"Our district has not been notified that these outages will affect any of our schools," she said. "Should conditions change, we will carry out a response plan that will be unique and specific to each school. Some of the factors that we will consider include the length of outage, food service, sanitation and the amount of natural light available inside of our classrooms. In the extreme case that we need to end the school day early, we will communicate that information as soon as possible."

Earlier this week, the National Weather Service called a "Fire Weather Watch" beginning Tuesday night and lasting through Thursday. The alert was prompted by predicted severe and dry offshore winds during that period. Forecasters say it's likely to be the strongest offshore wind event of the 2019 fire season.

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