Power outages disrupt virtual learning


Lindsay Ruhl

A tree blocks passage onto Wildwood Rd. in Morningside, where students and staff have experienced recent power loss.

Kamryn Harty

Recent power outages, caused by tropical storm Zeta, left many Grady students and staff in the dark last week. Widespread power outages caused APS to cancel school for two days, disrupting online instruction.

At 4 o’clock last Thursday morning, a tree crashed through several power lines, causing physics teacher Jillian Breen to lose power. Breen didn’t regain internet until Sunday evening. 

“We lost everything at that point,” she said. “That meant that I couldn’t get caught up [with work].”

Breen says that losing power made it harder for her to communicate with students.

“My students that did have internet were trying to email me about work they were doing…and I was trying to answer back on my phone,” she said, emphasizing how she felt overwhelmed by the outages. 

Senior Andre Myette’s power went out right before his virtual mock trial tournament “Empire Chicago.” 

“When it [the power outages] first happened in the morning, the first thing I thought about was the mock trial tournament that my team and I were participating in that night,” Myette said.

Myette, along with two other teammates, was forced to relocate to teammate junior Maggie Opsahl’s house to compete with wifi. The four-day tournament was conducted via Zoom, and Myette says that the power outages impacted the team’s performance.

“That threw us off a little bit,” he said. “It was worrying because there were people all across Atlanta that were without power, without lights, without heat and it was fairly cold.” 

Liz Opsahl, mother of Maggie Opsahl, says that she was happy to provide internet access to Myette and other team members who lost power. 

“We were fortunately not affected at all,” Ms. Opsahl said. “Maggie mentioned that some of the kids on her team did not have power, and they were trying to figure out how they were going to handle the tournament. So I said if anyone needed to come over to our house, they could because we had plenty of space and we still had wifi,” she said.

Students were able to safely compete by socially distancing on the Opsahl’s porch and spread through different rooms of the house, wearing masks when they were not speaking on camera. 

Like Myette, junior Grace Porges’ power went out last Thursday. However, unlike Myette, who regained power in two days, Porges did not regain power for nearly five days.

She says her family was able to function off of a generator that was stored in her dad’s office. The Porges used the generator to power their refrigerator and a single lamp in their kitchen and family members had to rotate charging personal devices in the generator. In order to regain a sense of normalcy,  Porges turned to creative solutions like plugging the toaster into her car.

“At night it was scary,” Porges said. “When I had to charge my phone, I would go for a drive… [but] we drive an electric car, so we couldn’t charge our car. At the top of our street, we had a tree and powerline down… so we didn’t really go many places.” 

On top of these barriers, Porges still had to complete school work. Because she did not have power or internet connection, she went to friends’ houses to use their wifi. On days where she could stay home to do school, Porges had to plug her computer into the generator to maintain a connection. 

“It was really hard to do homework,” Porges said. 

But Porges says that most teachers were understanding when she explained her situation.

“Whatever teachers were without power really understood, I think,” she said. “While it could have been worse, I’m glad we have power again.”