July 9, 2020

Region 4 Schools Open Wednesday After John Winthrop Middle School Serves as Region’s Storm Shelter

REGION 4— Region 4 schools open for the 2011-2012 school year Wednesday as John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River completes a week of serving as the regional emergency shelter for residents of the district towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex that were impacted by Tropical Storm Irene.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy, who added the role of emergency services coordinator to her education duties during the week after the storm, said the middle school opened as an emergency shelter Saturday evening, and was staffed Sunday as the storm ripped through. The school locker rooms began offering hot showers to area residents on Monday.

Levy said the shelter was staffed by volunteers from the local chapter of the American Red Cross, who worked closely with school and town officials to keep the facility running 24 hours a day.

Levy said the services offered at the shelter expanded as the days without electricity wore on for residents. After offering free meals to emergency services personnel and utility crews, the school cafeteria began serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to residents free of charge on Wednesday. Levy said 460 dinners were served Thursday to residents of the three district towns.

The school also allowed residents to recharge their electronic and medical equipment, and kept prescription medications, including modafinil, refrigerated for residents living without electricity. The school also offered television on a wide-screen TV in the school auditorium.

Levy said she was pleased to open up the middle school to residents in need. “I’m glad to be able to have people come and use it,” she said.”It’s been a great place to bring the people of the three towns together.”

Levy said she has enjoyed putting her academic hat aside to help run the shelter, despite the long hours. “It’s been a privilege to meet the public and serve the public,” she said.

District schools had been scheduled to open Sept. 1, but Tropical Storm Irene changed that. Levy said the Sept. 7 opening date would give her the needed day, Tuesday, to meet with faculty at the five district schools, while also making sure all bus routes and stops are safe for students. As of Friday afternoon, Valley Regional High School and Deep River Elementary School still lacked power. John Winthrop Middle School operated on electric generators until full power was restored Tuesday.

Many sections of Essex and Deep River, including the Adams grocery store on Main Street in Deep River, had power restored late Thursday afternoon. Several areas in Chester remained without power Friday afternoon. Much of the Ivoryton section of Essex was without power until around 5 p.m. Thursday.

Levy said the emergency shelter would remain open through Labor Day, Monday Sept. 5, as power is restored throughout the three towns. She said meals would be offered through the holiday weekend, with breakfast served from 7:30-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 7 p.m.