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Children Return to School 3 Weeks After California Wildfire

With hugs, teachers and a touch of anxiety, thousands of children returned to school and some semblance of routine Monday, three weeks after Northern California's deadly wildfire destroyed their homes and classrooms.

Posted: Dec 3, 2018 11:57 AM

By JONATHAN J. COOPER , Associated Press

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — With hugs, teachers and a touch of anxiety, thousands of children returned to school and some semblance of routine Monday, three weeks after Northern California's deadly wildfire destroyed their homes and classrooms.

Schools in Butte County have been closed since Nov. 8, when the blaze swept through the towns of Paradise, Concow and Magalia in the nation's deadliest wildfire in a century. At least 88 people were killed and dozens remain unaccounted for.

About 31,000 students in all went back to school. Many of them are going to class in other buildings because their schools were damaged or destroyed, or are inaccessible inside evacuation zones.

Some families have left the state. Others are staying with friends or relatives, too far from the fire-stricken area to drive in every day.

But nearly all the teachers are returning to provide a familiar and comfortable face to the children who are able to make it to class.

"It's important that the kids are able to stay together and have some sort of normalcy in the crazy devastation that we're having now," said Jodi Seaholm, whose daughter Mallory is a third-grader.

Mallory underwent radiation in October to treat a recurrence of brain cancer and showed no fear, Seaholm said, but "this situation with her house burning down has absolutely devastated her."

Counselors brought in from around the country were in nearly every classroom Monday to help children who were distressed by their escape through a burning town and the loss of their homes, Paradise Superintendent Michelle John said at a celebratory news conference. Many of the teachers lost their homes as well.

"Our kids are traumatized," John said. "Their families are traumatized."

Two neighboring school districts have allowed children from Paradise to take over available space. Kids who previously went to Paradise Elementary are going to school in Oroville, while children from Ponderosa Elementary are going to a school in Durham.

Most of Paradise High School survived but is inaccessible.

The district doesn't have space yet for intermediate and high school classrooms, so for the 13 days before the holiday break begins, those students will learn through independent study. They will have access to online assignments and a drop-in center at the Chico mall where they can get help from teachers or see classmates.

But schoolwork will probably be secondary to dealing with trauma and reconnecting with friends, said Paradise High Principal Loren Lighthall.

"They don't have their church, they don't have their school, they don't have their work, they don't have their friends. They don't have any of that stuff and we're asking them to write five-paragraph essays?" Lighthall said. "It's just unreasonable at this point. We're going to do it, but we're going to be super flexible with what we require."

Marissa Nypl is living with her family at her husband's coworker's home in West Sacramento, which is 90 miles (145 kilometers) from her 10-year-old daughter's temporary school in Durham, until they can move into a rental home much closer.

It's too far to drive every day, but Nypl wanted to be sure her daughter was there to be with her peers on the first day back.

"The school's going to be the only thing they have to latch on to to feel like something's still routine," she said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 206777

Reported Deaths: 2754
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40354614
Washington26781248
Marion23425323
Clackamas18925235
Lane13896164
Jackson11535146
Deschutes1001582
Umatilla859387
Linn560380
Yamhill477879
Klamath477678
Polk399356
Douglas387982
Malheur361463
Josephine359872
Benton326422
Jefferson236839
Coos216637
Columbia191929
Union149824
Wasco144330
Lincoln143021
Crook129223
Hood River121933
Morrow115316
Clatsop10559
Baker101115
Curry70811
Tillamook6604
Grant5507
Lake4678
Harney4339
Wallowa1945
Gilliam801
Sherman671
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3808258

Reported Deaths: 63335
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124761824454
Riverside3016034627
San Bernardino2992894844
San Diego2817493771
Orange2729225112
Santa Clara1201102188
Kern1107821404
Sacramento1076381731
Fresno1029221724
Alameda895921273
Ventura816381031
San Joaquin746861438
Contra Costa70561813
Stanislaus633871069
Tulare49814849
Monterey43831427
San Mateo42646581
San Francisco37256556
Santa Barbara34596455
Solano33707266
Merced32291478
Sonoma30868317
Imperial28813741
Placer23537299
Kings23189247
San Luis Obispo21421261
Madera16632245
Santa Cruz16235208
Marin14200230
Yolo14156212
Butte12659194
Shasta12630233
El Dorado10371116
Napa1002580
Sutter9656113
Yuba648551
San Benito610963
Lassen578424
Tehama573163
Nevada491075
Humboldt446348
Mendocino432150
Tuolumne420771
Amador373947
Lake356345
Glenn243427
Siskiyou239437
Colusa228418
Calaveras220156
Del Norte14568
Inyo143438
Mono12954
Plumas7366
Modoc5585
Mariposa4657
Trinity4225
Sierra1150
Alpine890
Unassigned330
Medford
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 98° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 79°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 51°
Crater Lake
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 79°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 98° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 79°
Klamath Falls
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 73°
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