Nor’Easter Dilemma

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Nor’Easter Dilemma

Jordan Broking, Managing Editor

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WEST ORANGE, Nj — On November 15th, the Northeast was slammed by a Nor’Easter. The Nor’Easter reached West Orange at 1:30 in the afternoon with the first sights of flurries being seen from classrooms in West Orange High School (WOHS). WOHS dismissed classes five minutes earlier than usual at 2:10, and cancelled all afterschool activities. Students were told to be on their buses by 2:20, as staff members were also allowed to leave at the same time. Once the buses left, that is when the chaos began.

Buses endured stand still traffic on all three major hills in West Orange. Those whose buses were on Eagle Rock Avenue waited for multiple accidents to clear out before being able to move again. However, after the accidents were cleared up, the snow worsened, causing buses to be halted again. Middle school bus pick up and elementary school pick up were delayed, with many of the buses not being able to pick up the students. Those that were not on their buses stayed put at their schools while the district underwent shelter in place. There were some buses that were able to complete their high school drop offs, but later got halted while completing their middle and elementary students drop offs.

Students were told to wait on their buses and to not leave by their bus drivers.  According to the bus drivers and one of the heads of transportation, students are only allowed to leave their buses if they are close to their bus stop. Many high school students waited an hour before deciding to brave the cold and leave through the emergency back door of their buses. They then proceeded to walk home down Eagle Rock Avenue. Multiple buses reported this to transportation as students are not allowed to do this during these cases. Later on in the evening, some parents braved the cold and walked up Eagle Rock Avenue themselves to directly pick up their children from their buses. 

It was not until 8:00 when Eagle Rock buses were given permission by the West Orange Police Department (WOPD) to turn around and head to the Chit Chat diner. Two buses were not able to turn around due to being stuck in the snow causing WOPD officers to escort students off their buses and drive them to the restaurant in their police cars. There, students and bus drivers were treated to free food and drinks. Traffic on other major hills eventually cleared out, allowing buses to complete whatever drop offs they had, with some still returning to their respective schools.

Students at the diner stayed until 10:30 and left shortly later to go back to the high school. Once there, WOHS principal Mr. Moore and WOHS staff members led students to the freshman cafeteria. Some high school students were able to get picked up by their parents or other verified family members. Other students, like others across the district, stayed overnight.

Across the district, faculty and staff made sure that the students were safe and comfortable. WOHS staff ordered pizza for their students and the Oak Barrel delivered food to Edison Middle School. Faculty in other schools, cooked dinner for their students and prepared different activities to keep the students entertained for the long night. During this time, students were also able to charge their phones and reach out to their parents. It was not until 10:30am that the school district reported that all students left their schools and went home. Luckily for them, the district closed school on Nov 16.

Fortunately, no students or staff were hurt during this time. The WOBOE issued a statement Friday night, stating their appreciation towards the West Orange teachers, staff, WOPD, WOFD, and the public works employees for what they have done. Bus drivers were thanked in another post published on West Orange social media pages. A nonprofit organization, Moore Love, welcomed the West Orange community to write “thank you” letters to the WO teachers and bus drivers at the Dunkin Donuts on Northfield Avenue on Nov 17.

Acting Superintendent Eveny DeMenedez released a letter to the public on Nov 17, to also praise the teachers, bus drivers, students, staff, and local officials. She also wrote about what caused the dilemma to ensue, and how the district plans on preparing to not have another incident like this happen again. One of these ideas would be same day announcements of early dismissals as the district only makes these announcements the night before. This was heavily discussed by parents on the West Orange schools Facebook page as many questioned why the school district did not decide to have an early dismissal. Other proposed ideas consisted of improving communication between the parents and district about bus locations, and establishing protocols for emergency information and an emergency response team.

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