DETROIT (WWJ) – Hundreds of west side Detroit students were sent home early, Friday, after a power outage forced the closure of more than 30 schools.
The Detroit Public Lighting Department outage started at around 10:45 a.m., and — due to the lack of heat inside the buildings — Detroit Public Schools Spokeswoman Michelle Stredowski said they made the call to close.
She told WWJ it’s simply not safe to keep kids for too long in those conditions.
“We’ve lost power and heat in all of those buildings,” Stredowski said. “So it’s not a good learning environment for the students.”
Ongoing problems with the city’s decrepit electrical grid have been a continuing concern in the bankrupt city; and outages such as Friday’s are not uncommon. Attributed to “system overload”, a widespread outage late last summer shut down power to Wayne State University, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, the City-County building, and midtown museums for two days.
According to Detroit’s Chief Compliance Officer Gary Brown, old cables feeding a major substation were the cause of Friday’s outage.
“These cables have outlived their lifespan,” Brown said. “We have about 90 failures a year.”
He said the aging power grid is why a new utility company will be stepping in to take over.
“Quite frankly, it’s the reason why the city of Detroit is getting out of the public lighting department shortly,” Gary said, in a live interview on WWJ Newsradio 950, “and, you know, turning that responsibility over to DTE. And we’ll just be supporting their efforts from that point on.”
Work continued into late Friday afternoon to repair the damage, with power slowly being restored to affected school buildings. As of Friday, the city had offered no timetable on the hand-off to DTE.
The schools, closed as of 1 p.m., include the following:
Ann Arbor Trail
Jerry L White
Palmer Park Academy
West Side Academy
West Side Adult
Many students at Flicks Elementary said they liked leaving early, but the blackout was a little scary for some.
“When I was taking a test, the part when (the lights when out) everybody got scared,” said 9-year-old Daylen Lloyd. “So then people started getting flashlights to come in the room so we could get to our classes.”
Detroit Public Schools had just one full day of school this week, after the holiday break was extended through Wednesday due to ice and snow.