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Weston Schools Learn Lessons From the Storm

WESTON, Conn. – It's "highly unusual" for students to lose four days of school before the first day even happens, Weston's superintendent of schools said Thursday. Weston schools were scheduled to start Tuesday, Aug. 30, but the first day was postponed to Tuesday, Sept. 6, because of the damage caused by Hurricane Irene.

"We'll seek input from the community, staff and Board of Education to look at the calendar to see what makes sense," Superintendent Colleen Palmer said of scheduling makeup days. "Everything is on the table for discussion — I'm hoping to be creative. [The decision] will be the least disruptive to plans people already have in place."

Palmer said the schools' campus is ready for students and sustained only minimal damage from the storm.

"We were so fortunate. We braced ourselves for water damage, wind damage. We moved any object we thought could become airborne, and we pruned trees. We had no broken windows and minimal water intrusion. Mostly just leaves and twigs in the road and on sports fields," said Palmer. "We anticipated much more – I was pleasantly surprised."

Two staff members monitored the storm from the central office Sunday to be on hand to report any emergencies.

Looking forward, Palmer said she will form a communications plan in the event of another emergency where information needs to be disseminated throughout town. "The hurricane allowed us to see how effective the AlertNow system is," said Palmer. It allowed the district to test the email accounts and start a Twitter account. "We're going to lay out a communications template on how to get each type of information."

The district also used sandwich boards and fliers to inform powerless residents of school updates. The communications template will inform parents where those notices will be posted in the event of another outage. Palmer said there will be a push to update the information on Power School so all phone numbers and email address are accurate.

The Twitter account will continue to be used for regular updates, and the administrative team will be trained on Twitter. The athletic director plans to set up an account for sports updates as well.

Palmer started as superintendent five weeks ago and has noticed a "tremendous sense of community" as a result of the recent hurricane. "Through difficult times, I witnessed citizens reaching out to help citizens – giving time and shelter. At Peter's Market, I heard people laughing and telling tales about the storm. It is a caring, supportive community that comes together when there is a need. I'm impressed very much by the culture of caring in a community – the compassion for others, the willingness to go the extra mile and the genuine concern neighbors have for their neighbors.

"The hurricane provided a unique opportunity to see the community at its best dealing with a very difficult situation."

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