After a fire, how would the Amherst Schools recover?

Staff Report

A fire at the Willoughby-Eastlake Schools board office has prompted a closer look at how Amherst education officials would handle a similar disaster.

The March 14 blaze was deemed accidental. Fully engulfing two floors before firefighters arrived, it gutted the 102-year-old Chandler Estate where nearly 40 people worked.

“We have to learn from that and make the adjustments we need to make,” Amherst Schools superintendent Steven Sayers said Monday.

The fire has raised questions about how sensitive records would be protected from a disaster here.

The Amherst board office, located on Forest Street, has some fireproof cabinets where the district’s most high-profile records are stored. Other records are kept in filing cabinets that wouldn’t withstand flames or flood.

Sayers asked for board approval to start exploring options for handling both physical records and making electronic back-ups.

The district has already been scanning many documents, such as seniors’ permanent records, for digital storage for many years. Recently, the treasurer’s department moved to a system of using all-digital records and workers shred all paper invoices.

But Sayers said that mindset needs to be employed “on a more comprehensive basis” around the district.

Treasurer Barbara Donohue said the state, during a recent audit of the Amherst Schools, also suggested forging a disaster recovery plan. It would include some records stored far off-site in case of a natural disaster that would affect the entire region.

Staff Report