Par­adise schools race to find class­rooms, help trau­ma­tized stu­dents

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY RONG-GONG LIN II AND HOWARD BLUME

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.

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