The recent—and in the long memories of veteran Williston people, unprecedented— early snow storm and resulting power outage has left us with many memories, stories, and reflections. In a real world test of our emergency planning, we overcame the substantial logistical hurdle of finding warm housing for 265 boarding students in a 24-hour period.
To recount the time line: Williston lost all power at about 8:00 pm on Saturday evening and by Sunday night, only a few dozen students had to spend a second night in cold dormitories, warmed by the upbeat and caring oversight of their dormitory parents.
By Monday afternoon, those remaining students were relocated, and with the restoration of power by 2:30 am Wednesday morning, we were able to welcome students back for classes on Friday. The generosity of our parents in opening their homes and diligence of our administrative team in arranging and accounting for departures made possible the implementation of our plan, and all the while our dining services were providing meals and our physical plant staff were clearing fallen trees and branches.
What these events underscore to me are the three value words of our mission statement: purpose, passion, and integrity.
Imagine a school where the head of dining services walks three miles around downed trees and through a foot of snow to make sure that food can be served to our full complement of boarding students on the first day of the crisis; imagine a school where days into the event physical plant personnel put in full days at Williston, only to return to their own homes, still without power and littered with fallen branches; imagine a school where the dean of faculty, by virtue of “sneaker-net” continually circulated to each dormitory throughout the dark first night to keep dorm parents apprised of plans as they were unfolding.
We learned a lot from this crisis, as administrative teams always do when plans go from “table top” drills to real life situations. In an age so dependent upon instant communications and the battery life of cell phones or connectivity of different wireless plans, it was nice to see that student gravitated to our dining commons (which became our congregating point) to follow updates posted on the white boards. We did our best to keep the school constituencies informed of our decisions as they unfolded, with our goal to resume our academic schedule as safely and expeditiously as possible.
Seeing our students in our opening school assembly this morning, reading the delight on their faces to be back among friends, and knowing that Williston is whole once again was tremendously satisfying for all of us.