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‘We’re all in this together,’ Warner says: In response to Getty fire, teachers provide alternative assignments


Photo credit: Maryam Talaie

The Getty Fire burns over a hill in the early hours of Monday, Oct. 28. Because of the fire, Archer remained closed for four days.

The community was awoken by a notification at 3:46 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 28 stating that school would be closed due to “brush fires and mandatory evacuations near the school.” As the fire persisted throughout the week, the school remained closed for four days, impacting the academic week for both students and teachers.

“It was tough because Archer was in the mandatory evacuation zone,” Upper School Director Gretchen Warner. “That’s what drove our decisions because we couldn’t actually open.” 

In order to “keep students engaged,” the administration implemented alternative assignments, Warner said. 

“We started to think about how we could re-engage students with the learning, how could we start to prepare them to come back and how could we do that in an equitable way,” Warner said. “We gave teachers some guidelines on what might be a good use for students during this time, how much time it should take. A lot of students we know are working on long term projects or papers, so what guidance teachers could give in the absence of face-to-face instruction.”

For senior Ariana Golpa, who was evacuated, the combination of making up work and leaving their homes was “very stressful.” 

“I kind of lost a lot of time that other students had to do homework,” Golpa said. “I was kind of freaking out because I thought the fire would come to our house right away, which wasn’t the case.” 

Although teachers provided alternative assignments, they were not mandatory as some students impacted by evacuations were unable to complete them. 

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“My first thought and my first instinct and reflex was not to go on my computer during the entire week,” sophomore Gabby Wolf said. “So when I got home on Wednesday, that was the first time I checked my email to see those alternative assignments.”

For students who weren’t impacted, the alternative assignments provided guidance for completing academic work without being at school.

“Academically, with the alternative assessments, I thought it was pretty smart of the teachers to do that, given that they didn’t know when we were going back to school,” Bella Morgan (‘21) said. “At the same time, it was a little bit confusing because I didn’t know when everything was due or if the assignments would be collected and graded.”

This was the longest Archer has had to close due to a natural disaster, but it was not the first time. In December of 2017, Archer was forced to close for three days due to the Skirball fire, and members of the community were also impacted by the 2018 Woolsey fire. Because of the increase in natural disasters in the past years, Archer administrators are beginning to create strategies for when the school may have to close again in the future. 

“We want to be proactive and strategic as we think ahead,” Warner said. “Should we have to be closed in the future, what that might look like for teachers? What might that look like for students? And how can we use our resources and technology to keep learning happening?” 

As students continue to readjust after the fires, both inside and outside of school, Warner encouraged students to look to the community for support. 

“If any student is feeling like they’re overwhelmed or inundated with work, to say something to their teachers. That’s incredibly important,” Warner said. “We know that everyone had a really different experience with this, so my advice to students would just be to reach out to teachers. We really are here to help you.” 

This article is part of an Oracle series about the impact of the Getty fire on the community.

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Nicki Rosenberg, Managing Editor

Nicki Rosenberg joined the Oracle in 2017 and was then promoted to Managing Editor as a junior. This year she will continue serving as the Managing Editor...

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Cydney Johnson, Staff Reporter

Cydney Johnson joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2019. She plays volleyball and she is also a member of Peer Support. During her free time she...

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Avery Fox, Staff Reporter

Avery Fox joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2019. She participates in Archer's Upper School Musical and is in Dance Performance Company, A Cappella,...

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Nyah Fernandez, Multimedia Editor

Nyah Fernandez joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2019 and became the Multimedia Editor in 2020. She loves playing basketball and volleyball and...

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