Schools cope with storm damage

Mercer Island School District employees had their hands full cleaning up debris, assessing damages, running an emergency shelter and preparing for a return to school during the power outage that started with a major wind storm last Thursday night.

School was cancelled Friday and Monday at all schools due to a lack of power across the Island. Students returned to the high school Tuesday, but not to Islander Middle School or the elementary schools.

On Monday, West Mercer Elementary and Mercer Island High School had power, while other district buildings did not.

Cleanup crews spent hours clearing debris from parking lots and driveways around the district, according to Keith Ellis, maintenance and custodial supervisor. A tree near district headquarters fell and totaled one of the vans the district uses to transport students to a school for the deaf, Superintendent Cyndy Simms said. Many of the district’s fences were damaged in the high winds, she said.

City officials asked the district to open one of its schools as an emergency shelter, Simms said. West Mercer was the best candidate because it has a natural gas generator and is close to district headquarters.

Maintenance employees emptied the refrigerators around the district to prevent food from spoiling. They shared the meat and cheese with the people who spent the days at West Mercer, Simms said.

“It’s open and warm and has been a great benefit I know to members of our community that needed shelter,” Simms said.

On Monday, district officials said they were ready for school to start again and were just waiting for electricity.

“We’ve been cleaning the debris up in the parking lots and driveways so the buses can get out and about and just basically waiting for power to come back on,” Ellis said. “That’s really our biggest problem.”

As of Monday afternoon, students had missed four school days due to weather. The Mercer Island Education Association will negotiate with district officials to determine when to make up those days. They will likely be made up at the end of the year, during mid-winter break or spring break, Simms said.

Northwest Yeshiva High School students returned at noon on Monday. At the French American School of Puget Sound, class resumed as usual Monday morning. St. Monica held school Tuesday.

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