Mass outage forces last-minute closure decisions for some Northern California schools

Several school districts decided on Tuesday to close in anticipation of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s engineered power shutoffs, which could begin midnight Wednesday.

Other districts from Redding to Placerville and in the Bay Area, meanwhile, took a wait-and-see approach to the planned blackouts, not announcing plans on whether to close campuses for the day until early Wednesday morning.

PG&E’s shutoffs, blacking out power to 513,000 customers as of 4 a.m. Wednesday with a second phase of more than 250,000 expected to begin around noon, could affect thousands of students and their families in Northern and Central California.

The Sierra Nevada foothills north and east of Sacramento will be among the areas possibly affected if PG&E cuts power due to significant fire potential. School districts in Yuba, Nevada and Shasta counties are among those who have already chosen to close campuses Wednesday and, potentially, Thursday.

Northern Sacramento Valley schools

The Red Bluff Union Elementary and Red Bluff Joint Union High School districts announced Wednesday morning in Facebook posts that all campuses would be closed until power is restored.

In Shasta County, Anderson Union High School District and Cascade Union Elementary School District will be closing campuses on Wednesday and Thursday, according to superintendent Victor Hopper. The closures will effect seven campuses and 1,668 students for Anderson Union, while Cascade Union’s closures will affect five campuses and roughly 1,300 students, according to a district spokeswoman.

Other district in the Chico and Oroville areas closing include Shasta College, Thermalito Union, Stoney Creek Joint and Pacheco Union school districts.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay anticipates a high likelihood of closures for many districts in the county. The closures could effect some 11,000 students across 36 schools in nine districts for two to five days beginning Wednesday.

“We’re expecting the whole county to go dark. It’s a 90 percent probability. Everybody’s on standby,” Lay said.

Schools in Sierra foothills concerned with spoilage

With concerns over food spoilage, Lay said that his office looked into purchasing generators but that the items had been back-ordered.

Six of the 23 schools in the Marysville Joint Unified School District are anticipating closures, which would effect approximately 1,000 students on a day-by-day basis, according to its superintendent, Gary Cena.

Marysville Joint Unified has taken to shipping $500,000 worth of food from its foothill campuses to its offices in the valley, and is considering the use of refrigerated trucks and lockers to aid in food storage.

What schools are closing in Sacramento capital region?

A number of districts closer to Sacramento, including Placer and El Dorado counties, were in limbo through late Tuesday night as they awaited direction from PG&E and other departments.

Rescue Union School District announced on its website early Wednesday morning that all of its schools will be closed for the day, and said it will notify parents by 8 p.m. Wednesday on the schools’ status for Thursday.

Rocklin Unified School District announced all campuses will be open and are expected to have power Wednesday morning, notifying parents via social media just before 6 a.m.

El Dorado Union High School and Amador County Unified School District said they will close all schools on Wednesday. Amador County Unified has planned a notification at 8 p.m. the same day to update students on the possibility of a Thursday closure.

Garth Lewis, Yolo County’s superintendent of schools, said there he was not anticipating widespread closures in Yolo County except for Esparto Unified School District, which would be closed for the remainder of the week, affecting 941 students.

Placer County Office of Education spokeswoman Michelle Eklund said that her office has been in constant communication with PG&E as they await word on the closures.

“The decision happens at the local district level. We’ve been working with PG&E, Placer County Human and Health Services and Placer County Emergency Services to monitor things. We’ll be talking to them later and we will have a stronger sense then,” Eklund said.

Schools closing elsewhere

Schools in Calaveras County are also closing, according to, which stated the county’s superintendent of schools, Scot Nanik, reported “none of the schools have generators for operation.”

Meanwhile, a number of schools in the Bay Area have also chosen to close ahead of the power interruptions, according to the Mercury News in San Jose and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among them: Schools in Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Mark West and Windsor; districts near San Jose, such as Alum Rock and San Leandro; and Napa Valley Unified School District will be closed over the next two days.

Solano Community College will be closing its campuses in Vacaville, Fairfield, Travis Air Force Base and Vallejo on Wednesday. Online courses for Wednesday have also been canceled.

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Mitchel Bobo covers breaking news for The Bee and is a journalism student at Sacramento State. He was born on Travis Air Force Base and raised in Vacaville.
Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.