Sewage in the yard, schooling as usual

In the Tribune’s “My First Year” blog, a new elementary school teacher in East Oakland’s Arroyo Viejo neighborhood shares her dismay at the handling of a sewer line break at her flatlands school.

Had human waste spewed into the play yard of a predominately middle class school, she speculated, the parents and students would surely have been notified of the incident — and of the health hazards —  and class would have been canceled for the day.

“Did our school get closed? No. Were parents informed about the accident? Only if they asked. In a middle class school with better-informed parents, school would have been cancelled and parents would all have been informed of the safety and health concerns of the accident.”

I talked to OUSD spokesman Troy Flint about the situation. He said facilities staff (which apparently responded quickly after learning of the break) are responsible for assessing the potential health risks caused by such an incident and for communicating that information with school administrators.

The district hasn’t had a formal policy on handling such matters, Flint said, but from now on, principals and network executive officers will be encouraged to inform parents, staff and students of the potential hazards.

“We strive to have a higher level of communication than occurred in this incident,” Flint said.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Caroline

    Wouldn’t it be the principal’s decision to close school for the day? And a tough one with all parents having to be contacted to come get the kids — what about parents who can’t be reached or can’t/won’t come get the child?

    I was just talking to a veteran San Francisco school board member about the sky-high number of little new schools scattered around Oakland and how logistically difficult it is to manage them all, just physically. This kind of crisis would seem to be a hazard of that situation.