Wine Country fires: Educators, some of whom lost homes, reopening schools

Oct 17, 2017 by

Principal Teresa Ruffoni greeted students at Crane Elementary School in Rohnert Park on Monday morning, their first day back in class after a series of deadly fires burned through thousands of homes in neighboring Santa Rosa and in other cities and towns across the region.

What Ruffoni didn’t tell the children was that a week earlier she had grabbed a few of her most vital belongings and fled from flames that would soon consume her home in Hidden Valley Estates, a hard-hit subdivision in the hills of northern Santa Rosa.

She was too focused on the students, and navigating an extraordinary period for education in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties.

“Our kids need this. They really do,” Ruffoni said. “They really need a place to learn.”

The Wine Country fires displaced thousands of families, some of whom still don’t know if their homes survived, and shut down schools in all three counties.

Now, as schools in places like Rohnert Park and Petaluma begin to reopen, administrators not only are concerned about the emotional health of students but also are preparing for changes, including possible jumps in enrollment if parents decide to send their children to schools closer to their temporary housing — including emergency shelters.

Nearly 600 schools, serving 260,000 students across Northern California, closed last week because of fire danger, smoke or evacuations, state officials said. Some of the schools were themselves used as shelters.

Many parents, meanwhile, fled the North Bay entirely to get away from the heavy smoke, staying with family or friends or at hotels.

Amid the chaos and uncertainty, district administrators and teachers have been scrambling to get schools back open, knowing it was a critical step to bring a sense of security and normalcy to children traumatized by the destruction.

That’s why on Friday, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified Superintendent Robert Haley gathered the entire district staff in a school gym.

“Do you want to try and reopen Monday?” he asked.

The answer, he said, was a solid yes.

Source: Wine Country fires: Educators, some of whom lost homes, reopening schools – San Francisco Chronicle

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