Lafayette Power Outage Impacts Acalanes Distance Learning

By Katrina Ortman, Online Arts and Opinion Editor

// Acalanes students first scrambled to adjust to a new shelter-in-place lifestyle, one heavily dependent on the use of technology, when they transitioned to distance learning. After an unprecedented local accident, they adapted yet again to the absence of that technology in this isolated world.

   In an exciting return to distance learning after Spring Break, a truck collided with a downed power pole on Reliez Station Road at 12:18 p.m. on April 7. The subsequent power outage, predicted to last into April 8, extended from the east end of Lafayette to the Burton Valley area and impacted distance learning for several Acalanes students.

   For many, the power outage was simply an inconvenience in an already difficult situation. Students found themselves suddenly logged out of Zoom calls, troubleshooting unresponsive computers, and unable to complete work.

   “It directly interrupted my [Advanced Placement European History] Zoom call. Mr. Seelenbacher was right in the middle of giving an instruction, so that’s something I didn’t get, and everything just kind of shut down,” sophomore Autumn Long said.

   Luckily, most students quickly found solutions to the power problem.

   “At first I panicked a little, but it turned out to be fine. I just set up a hotspot on my phone,” sophomore Aly Kirke said.

   However, hotspots generally require an unlimited data plan, which not all students have. Students without hotspots tried to use as little data as possible, getting notes on Zoom meetings from classmates and shifting work to other days of the week.

   “[The lessons] take up a lot of data that, yes, my family could afford, but not on the long term, and it’s just not worth it,” Long said.

   Fortunately, many teachers are assigning work at the beginning of the week to be due on Thursday and Friday, so many affected students did not need to worry about making up late work.

   For other students, the power outage barely touched their homes and the effects on distance learning proved to be minimal.

   “I wasn’t doing classwork at the time, so it didn’t affect me. Our power was only out for about 30 minutes,” sophomore Ella Tinianow said. 

   Whether or not the lack of electricity severely or mildly impacted a home, it revealed the heavy reliance on the delicate systems of WiFi and the Internet to everyone involved.

   “Usually we can count on access to electricity and WiFi, so when we don’t have it, it’s pretty inconvenient,” junior Keily Sarica said. “Distance learning has made us reliant on power and WiFi, so I’m struggling a bit right now because I cannot complete some of my assignments.”

   Dependence on technology is just one downside to distance learning that students must learn to deal with in the coming months, as the administration recently announced school closures extending to the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Throughout these troubled times, Acalanes students continue to show resourcefulness, making the most of what they have and turning it into a learning experience.

   “I think it will make me adaptable to new situations, and this uncertainty will ultimately benefit me in the long run,” Sarica said.

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