Paradise schools race to find classrooms, help traumatized students
As this region still reels from the worst fire in California history, educators are faced with the challenging task of reopening schools even as the firefighters continue their work and searchers scour the area for more victims.
Butte County’s countywide public school system has been closed since the start of the Camp Fire Nov. 8. Officials said the hope is to reopen Dec. 3.
They are working to identify replacement classroom space for schools that were burned to ashes during the fire.
Paradise Unified School District was hardest hit, with multiple school buildings lost to the fires. Charter schools in the area also suffered.
“This is the equivalent to setting up a school district in two weeks. There are a lot of logistics, and we want to assure you that we’re on it,” Mary Sakuma, deputy superintendent at the Butte County Office of Education, said last week.
Authorities are also assembling trauma counselors to be available at schools.
“This is not just about buildings,” she said. “Our staff, parents and students have undergone tremendous trauma. We can’t just come back to school after Thanksgiving like we used to.”
Paradise Unified is now operating out of a temporary location and said in a letter to parents several days ago that it was on the hunt for classroom space.
“We can tell you that we have secured locations within Butte County that will allow us to have PUSD teachers in classrooms with PUSD students. We are also working on eliminating transportation barriers for our PUSD students so that they will be able to get to these new sites,” the letter said.
School officials have been asking for donations and other forms of support. Rancho Santa Fe businessman Bob Wilson has promised to donate $1 million to Paradise High School, one of the few campuses to survive the flames.