Winter Storm Leaves Westwood Worse for Wear

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  • Fallen trees litter the courtyard. In the week since the storm, a cleanup crew of 3 has worked to clear debris.

  • Damage done to the school due to the ice storm includes a shattered door in the downstairs E Wing.

  • Protected by caution tape, the space in front of the school is blocked off due to amount of fallen trees.

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Following the winter storm that began on Monday, Jan. 30, falling trees and power outages that started on Feb. 1 have affected power for many across Central Texas.

Despite community precautions to mitigate the impact of the storm, such as RRISD’s cancellation of classes from Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, existing infrastructure struggled to continue normally, as frozen trees snapped and fell on power lines — leaving some RRISD campuses without power. The number of affected campuses resulted in an additional day of school closures, as school and district administration began work on to restoring pre-storm conditions.

“When we came back [to school] on Monday the bells weren’t working right away [and] some of our PA system is down, [so] we’re trying to get that all back and running,” Principal Ms. Erin Campbell said.

The storm’s impact on campus can be observed before even entering the building. Shattered doors in the downstairs E-hall have been covered with caution tape, rendering the entrance unusable. Around campus, fallen trees are pervasive, making roads difficult for student drivers to navigate.

“I’ve seen so many people swerve out of the way [to avoid] fallen branches on streets,” Claire Lawrence ‘23 said. “Some of the roads around my house were completely blocked due to fallen trees, and it made it really hard to get to Westwood.”

The trees have also seized student areas, with the outdoor picnic area in front of the school closed to students — instead commandeered by fallen tree branches.

“During lunch, the outside environment is just so peaceful and [helps me] be productive and get my work done,” Sheevani Talati ‘24 said. “Ever since the trees have fallen, I haven’t been able to sit at the tables there, so I’ve had to sit inside, [where it’s] always really crowded and loud.”

Despite the loss of power and debris from downed trees surrounding the school, damage was minimal.

“We were really lucky here. We do have trees on campus, but our trees are pretty much on the periphery,” Ms. Campbell said. “Our district only has three grounds crew people. And so they have been working so many hours trying to clean up all the campuses.”

Post-storm, the immediate needs of the students and faculty remain a priority for school administration.

“[We worked] with our school social workers and outside resources, [to] put together lists of food pantries, warming stations, and places where people could come in charge their cell phones and devices,” Principal Campbell said. “Our food services department in the cafeteria [has] been preparing sack lunches for families that need extra food, because a lot of people lost everything in their fridge and freezer.“

The long-term impacts of the storm remain yet to be seen, as the district deliberates on a solution to compensate for missed instructional minutes.

“We know that we don’t have to make up [two of the days] because they’re already built into our instructional calendar,” Principal Campbell said. “So we’re just waiting to hear [the decision] on the other two, [which] will help us know how we move forward.”