Middle school evacuated to Truckee High
February 5, 2003
Sierra Mountain Middle School students got a taste of what it’s like to be in high school this week after their campus was evacuated due to the AmeriGas propane leak.
After the students were dismissed from school Jan. 30 and 31 – where high levels of contamination were found behind some of the classrooms – district and school administrators met to figure out what to do with the students until the leak is under control.
“I can see the problems they’re having [with the leak] happening for months, but I don’t see our kids being put out that long,” said Chris Cooper, director of risk management, workers’ compensation, safety and maintenance for the district.
“If we have to go past Ski and Skate Week (which ends Feb. 21) we’ll need to come up with a different plan,” he said. “We’ve never dealt with anything quite like this.”
Crews have not detected propane in or under the classrooms.
“The risk itself is minimal. The majority of the problem is evacuation,” Cooper said.
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In the midst of the temporary closures at the middle school and Dairy Queen, some have wondered why businesses, like the DMV, are still open.
“It’s easy to evacuate a dozen adults but not 660 students,” Cooper said. “The way levels (of propane) have been fluctuating, we’d be evacuating the students several times per day.”
Another concern for the district and the surrounding businesses has been cost. In addition to overtime, bus routes have been altered, increasing fuel costs and bus driver time.
“Just like all the other businesses in town, we hope to recover the cost,” Cooper said. “We’ve been tracking how much we’re spending on all this.”
As for average daily attendance (ADA) funding, Cooper said the district should be able to receive a waiver for the missed days of school.
Until further notice, which Cooper expects on Friday, the district’s contingency plan has the students on minimum days. Starting Feb. 3, the high school met in the morning and the middle school in the afternoon.
Each day, the middle school teachers have access to their classrooms at Sierra Mountain from 10:30 a.m. until noon to retrieve supplies for the day’s curriculum. At noon, the middle school students have gathered in the Tahoe Truckee High School gymnasium to hear announcements and learn their room assignments.
It has been a relatively smooth transition, said Sierra Mountain Principal Don Beno.
“The students were a little excited at first, but they’ve calmed down. The first day, I stopped by each classroom, and every class I went to the teachers were teaching and the students were learning,” he said.
The high school staff has been especially helpful, he added.
“They’re going out of their way to make us feel welcome. That’s made all the difference.”
For more information on Sierra Mountain Middle School’s closure, consult http://www.ttusd.org.