Idyllwild School gives kids a warm place during blackout

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Dozens of Idyllwild School students were warm and happy to attend school Friday, Dec. 8. The first activity was the winter orchestra concert. School was open and a generator warmed the rooms, while Southern California Electric restored power to the Hill. Photo by JP Crumrine

The power outage last week had no exemptions. But Idyllwild School, as several local businesses, did have an emergency generator onsite to help.

The outage occurred about 11:45 a.m., and the school day ends about 2:45 p.m. for grades one to five, and 10 minutes later for the middle school.

Principal Matt Kraemer and his faculty brought the students together in the cafeteria where the generator was initially connected. But they moved it around campus to power space heaters in classrooms that are not connected to the main building.

Kraemer made sure the school opened Friday because, “I wanted a place for the kids to go and still be warm and active. I didn’t want kids alone in dark, cold houses.”Despite four hours without power, the event was more of an adventure for the students. When asked how they were doing, Kraemer said the overwhelming response was, “It was good. They wanted more power outages and asked me to pull the plug!”

But getting through the school day was just the first step, Kraemer explained.

Riverside County Emergency Management Department staff reached out and asked if the school could serve as the Warming and Comfort Center Thursday night for the whole community.

The  county sent out an email announcing the availability of the center, but without power, most residents did not have access to the Internet. Consequently, Kraemer said not many people used the center Thursday night.

Kraemer also decided to open school Friday, even without knowing when the outage would end. The official opening was delayed until 10:07 a.m., but students who came earlier could stay warm in the cafeteria.

The winter orchestra concert scheduled for Thursday night had to be canceled, but it was re-scheduled for 10:20 a.m. Friday. The gym filled with faculty and students to hear the school’s orchestra, directed by music teacher William Beuche, perform holiday music.

So, Friday was not a normal school day, but it was a day when the school and community warmed each other.

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