Twins Margaret and Grace Pedersen arrived Tuesday for their first day of school to dark classrooms at Badger Mountain Elementary School.
"I thought the lights were just turned off and they'd turn them on when we came in," said Grace, 10.
But the lights, along with the computers, cooling system, phones and other electrical devices remained off all day at the Richland school because an old power cable failed.
Staff and students acknowledged it wasn't an ideal way to start the school year but with cooperation, planning and a number of lanterns and flashlights, it was a good first day, officials said.
"This is one first day of school these kids won't forget," said Linda Dunford, who works in the school's office.
Badger Mountain lost power early Tuesday morning, according to school district officials.
It was the second power outage at a Richland school in as many days, with Lewis & Clark Elementary School losing power Monday. Lewis & Clark's power was restored in time for classes Tuesday.
Bob Hammond, director of Energy Services for the city of Richland, said the main power cables failed at both schools. He said the lines were old but the cause of their failure isn't known yet and crews were working Tuesday to replace the line at Badger Mountain.
Badger Mountain Principal Gail Ledbetter said the power outage provided challenges.
Some rooms in the school have no windows and were pitch black without lights. The building was warmer than normal with no air conditioning. Dunford couldn't record attendance for the day without her computer, and lunchroom staff had to scramble to preserve the perishable food.
But Ledbetter said the staff made it work. Most of the school's doors were propped open to help air circulate. Classes rotated into outdoor spaces, such as the school's interior courtyards. The school's cooks prepared the day's lunch at Enterprise Middle School in West Richland and shipped it back to Badger Mountain without any delay in the schedule.
"We can do it without lights. We can do it without computers," Ledbetter said. "It's very doable."
Third-grade teacher Michelle Wheland was able to have class in her room, thanks to a number of lanterns and flashlights brought in for the day. Among the student activities for the day: making fans to help students keep cool.
"(The students) are doing wonderful," she said. "It's just a little bit hot and a little bit dark."
One of Wheland's students, Michelle Lei, 8, said making her fan was one of her favorite activities of the day and she was definitely looking forward to going home and talking about the unique start to her third-grade year.
"Oh, I will totally tell them," she said, smiling.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org