Thirteen minutes will be added to the end of every school day, starting Monday, for students in the Superior school district.
The extended days, which run through the end of the school year, will make up instruction time lost last Friday when the district cancelled school following the Husky Energy oil refinery fire. It was the third cancellation of the school year. The others were snow days Feb. 20 and April 16.
"We always book two snow days, or inclement weather days we call them," said District Superintendent Janna Stevens. "So on the third day, when we hit that, we know that we have to make up those minutes. I was holding out hope that perhaps the Department of Public Instruction, because it was an emergency evacuation, would waive the makeup of those minutes, but they've told us absolutely not."
Although the evacuation order was lifted early Friday morning, Stevens said, there wasn't time for all the teachers, staff and students to get back to Superior. Many had evacuated the day before to cabins and hotel rooms far from the area.
"People were all over, from Minneapolis to Ely to Rice Lake," Stevens said.
As the fire sent plumes of black smoke up Thursday, students from seven Superior schools and Maranatha Academy were bused to AMSOIL's facility on Susquehanna Avenue - all except Four Corners Elementary.
The Superior-based business was not a planned evacuation site. Wessman Arena on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus was. But it, too, was in the evacuation zone.
Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander connected the district to AMSOIL as he stood on Hill Avenue.
"I told (Janna) to get the buses rolling, I'll figure something out," he said.
Then Alexander contacted AMSOIL. It ticked all the boxes for a site - enough space to fit thousands of students, at least a dozen buses and a flood of parents away from the threat and not in the midst of construction.
"I work with AMSOIL on the K9 event," Alexander said. "I knew their capability."
Scott Davis, vice president of operations at AMSOIL got the message from the chief.
"He just called and said 'Scott, we're evacuating the schools, we're thinking AMSOIL might be the best place to locate' and I said 'Consider it done. Get 'em rolling,'" Davis said.
Within minutes, he activated the facility's incident command and they formulated a plan.
"I got the call at 1:09 p.m. from Chief Alexander and parents were coming in at 1:15 p.m., with no children here yet," Davis said. "And we were just getting ourselves outside with the plan; the plan had to develop that fast."
While other employees were released, 24 stayed behind to help direct traffic flow, bring children into the facility to use the bathroom and communicate with parents. Teachers kept students back and in school groups.
"From there, just the traffic management was the challenge," Davis said.
The first bus pulled in at 1:40 p.m., 25 minutes after parents started to assemble. They came in waves from different schools, Stevens said, starting with Bryant and Lake Superior elementary schools. Because many students had already been picked up by parents, she said, about 2,500 students were evacuated to the facility.
"It actually worked out better than I could have ever dreamed because the AMSOIL staff was phenomenal," Stevens said.
Alexander called it a "great example of a business being a good neighbor."
Davis said that it was chaos, but it was effective chaos. By 3:45 p.m., every student had been picked up, no student was left and no parent was still looking for a student. That, he said, is success.
"In general, we don't practice for this and we didn't see it coming," Davis said. "We just took our experience and did the most with it. I have an amazing team that said 'What do you need' and they did it."
As an oil company, AMSOIL has always had a trained spill response team. Over the last 15 years, Davis said, it's evolved to include a medical response team, and five years ago, a formal incident command structure.
"Because we train for incident command that is unexpected and adapting, we train to adapt to the situation," Davis said. "At the same time, we also have big events, we've done parking before. We understand what it takes to move people and keep it from getting clogged."
"So you cross your experience with your preparedness and you can get a result that works," Davis said.
Stevens said the district is examining its emergency evacuation plan. Some pieces, like communication, went smoothly due to cell phones, radios and the district's all-call system, which can get a message to thousands of people in 10 seconds. Others, like having more than one mass evacuation site, will be reviewed.
"We want to pick some different sites because we don't know where the disaster will happen," Stevens said. "So we want to have a few options."
Based on their response last week, she said, AMSOIL is at the top of the list.
"It felt great at the end of the day when the last parent came to pick up a student," Stevens said.