Power outages in Ann Arbor leaving uncertainty

Satvika Ramanathan, Web Managing Editor

Nineteen Ann Arbor Public School campuses still don’t have power. As of Friday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m., 412,846 DTE customers still don’t have power. For three days this week, AAPS closed due to the ice storm on Wednesday, Feb. 22. 

Senior Ali Deneke lost power and doesn’t have a generator. She and her family spent most of Thursday at Panera’s and the library. 

“It’s hard to do basically anything without Wi-Fi or electricity to charge things, and my mom works from home so she couldn’t get anything done either,” Deneke said. “At some point I’d almost rather be at school actually doing things than at home. As much as I like snow days, I’m hoping we get to go back on Monday.”

The power outage has affected people all over the Ann Arbor area. 

“The systemwide impact of the extended electrical outages following the ice storm on Wednesday – to our schools, campuses, infrastructure and operations across the school district – is more significant than any event experienced in the AAPS in many decades,” superintendent Jeanice Swift wrote in a district-wide announcement on Friday, Feb. 24.

The community has had many impacts, affecting technology and access to food and safety.  

“We are grateful to DTE and other teams that continue working extremely hard, under tough conditions, to restore power to our schools and community,” Swift wrote. “[We] appreciate their critical work to get our schools operational and students back in school just as soon as we can safely do so.” 

Junior Maxine Wilkins’ power went out Thursday afternoon.

“We just lit some candles and snuggled in blankets with some of the heat in our house still there, but today the house just kept getting colder even with bunches of blankets on,” Wilkins said. “We’re now going to our grandparents’ house to stay the night because it’s too cold. I don’t mind if we go back [to school] or not, but the more snow days we have, the more it might leak into extra days in the summer which is not what I want.”

AAPS has ‘act of God days,’ where school closures are necessary in the event of emergency situations. 

“[These days] are built into the school year calendar in advance,” Swift wrote. “Currently, we are within the allotted six emergency days for this school year, so at this time, there is not a requirement for make-up days,” Swift wrote. “The state also allows for a waiver of some days, on a case-by-case basis, during emergencies such as this electrical outage.”

Depending on the restoration status, there may be a case where most of the district reopens on Monday, Feb. 27, with the exception of certain schools. 

“The current level of impact to the overall district is significant, impacting operations to the point where even schools that have power can not safely operate,” Swift wrote.

More than 50 percent of the Ann Arbor area has been affected by power and connectivity issues, so virtual school was not a feasible solution this past week. DTE customer and junior Marisa Randall is getting uncomfortable with feeling comfortable at home.

“[It’s] to the point where I will have trouble getting back in routine if this keeps going,” Randall said. “I haven’t been able to use these days to catch up on any school work because I have no Wi-Fi — so that’s been frustrating.”

Sophomore Zachary Xu lost power on Wednesday night and it still has not been restored. 

“Since I haven’t had any heating, I’ve been staying at my friend’s house,” Xu said, who does not have a backup generator. “I am not excited to go back to school because we were supposed to have four tests spanning this week but now we have to have them all [as soon as we get back]. But the one day school week went crazy.”

To ensure that power is successfully restored, DTE has to make sure that all systems are functioning properly. Though with the restoration of power there may be challenges like leaks and HVAC issues, especially when it’s cold out.

“Many of these concerns will not manifest until after power is restored,” Swift wrote. “Yet we will respond immediately to address issues as they emerge and remain in communication with individual school communities as needed.”

AAPS is also going to provide food support starting Monday, Feb. 27 if the infrastructure of the buildings is set. The facilities team has also been clearing the campuses. 

Swift wrote that AAPS is hoping this outage emergency is the last of interruptions for this school year.  

On Sunday, Feb. 26, Swift will share an additional update about the reopening of AAPS on Monday.

“Thank you, AAPS community, for your partnership and support of our students and schools during this very challenging time,” Swift wrote. “We look forward to welcoming our beautiful students and staff back to our AAPS schools soon.”