by Brooke Buchanan
The Intercontinental Export-Import, Inc. plastics recycling warehouse became engulfed in flames on the early morning of Oct. 21. As a result of this week-long fire, Wood County Schools, as well as WVU Parkersburg, closed their doors to ensure the safety of students.
“The air quality caused a significant health hazard, and I did not want any of our personnel to be required to be in an unsafe area,” WVU Parkersburg President Fletcher Lamkin said. “Therefore, in the interests of the safety of our students, staff and faculty, I cancelled class. The number one priority is safety, and that was my first and foremost concern.”
President Lamkin does not believe the week-long break put a damper on students’ education. “A week of missed class can be made up by using online resources. A longer time may have become problematic, but I do not believe that one week caused a significant effect.”
Lamkin felt the school was safe after safety precautions were taken to the air filters. “The facilities department shut down the outside air coming into our air conditioning systems,” Maintenance Director David White said. “We normally mix about 25 percent outside air, but we didn’t until the all clear was given by the 911 center. WVUP has begun changing all the air filters in the air handling units at the main campus.”
Although some teachers are cramming to make up for time lost, the individual faculty members have the ultimate decision on how they choose to complete the semester after the time lost. “Faculty will make sure that the topics and learning to be gained from each course will still be covered as originally planned,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Chad Crumbaker said.
Although additional days will not be added to the end of the semester to make up for lost time, students should expect to cover the same material as originally planned. “While students may not make up missed days, they will still be responsible for making up missed school work on an adjusted schedule,” Crumbaker said. “In many cases, students will notice additional out-of-class assignments.”
As a result of the week long closure, many professors are reworking the remainder of their semester to cover all of the course content. “During the closure, my students were able to use the resources available online such as Blackboard, Brainfuse and the library databases to make the week back less stressful on them. I also turned to Blackboard for several of my classes for help. Students had out-of-class quizzes online to avoid taking instructional time from the classroom upon our return,” English instructor Danielle Kelly said. “Post fire, I’m making up for lost time by moving through the material a little faster and revising my course schedule.”
For student Kaylee Hall, all of her classes were affected by the fire. “They were cancelled for a week so now we’re having to cram everything this week,” Hall said.
Hall believed that citizens were not being told the entire truth about the matter. “We honestly don’t know if what we were breathing was toxic or not, but I just want it all to be over with,” Hall said. “I’m proud of the people who found the fire for our safety.”