Educators Scramble to Find Schools for Thousands of Students Whose District Was Destroyed by Fire

By Denisa R. Superville — November 19, 2018 2 min read
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Education officials in Butte County, where the devastating Camp Fire has destroyed thousands of homes and claimed at least 77 lives as of Monday, are now looking to find schools for the nearly 4,000 students in Paradise, Calif., whose town and school system were destroyed.

The fire destroyed Paradise Elementary School and seven additional buildings in the community were damaged or destroyed, the Sacramento Bee reported. At least 3,800 of Paradise’s students lost their homes, and staff members are also among those affected by the fire, the paper reported.

And more than 5,000 students in Butte County have been displaced, according to the Butte County Board of Education, which covers 14 school districts, including Paradise, and 18 charter schools.

Butte County schools will remain closed until December 3, and when students return, officials will need the equivalent of 100 portable classrooms to educate temporarily displaced students, Butte County education officials said. Neighboring districts are also likely to take in displaced students, who will qualify for benefits under the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Those benefits include free lunch and transportation to the students’ new or former schools. Districts can also use Title 1 funds to pay for students’ uniforms and medical and dental services.

The Camp Fire, the most devasting fire in California’s history, has killed 77 people since it started on Nov. 8. Nearly 1,000 people were still missing on Sunday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

In a Monday morning update, Cal Fire said that more than 11,000 residential structures and 472 commercial structures had been damaged in the fire, which was 66 percent contained.

Poor air quality forced several districts in the Bay Area to close last week.

In addition to the Camp Fire, another fire, the Woolsey Fire, ravaged parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. It killed three people and damaged more than 1,000 structures, the LA Times reported.

Several school districts, including Conejo Valley Unified, Las Virgenes Unified, Oak Park Unified, and Malibu, will remain closed until after the Thanksgiving break.

Photo caption: Sisters Arissa Harvey, from left, Araya Cipollini, and Arianne Harvey eat beside an RV they were living in near their home that was destroyed by wildfire in Paradise, Calif., earlier this month. Along with their parents, the teenage girls have since relocated to Oroville, Calif., to stay with friends. --John Locher/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.