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Schools Prepare To Open Amid Wildfires

KCBS Radio Morning News
July 31, 2018 - 10:20 am
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REDDING, Calif. (KCBS Radio) — Evacuation orders are being lifted, even as the Carr Fire continues to rage near the city of Redding.

People no longer affected by evacuation orders are checking out of motels, but there's still a demand for these rooms as thousands of people in northern California cannot return to their homes. Insurance companies continue searching for vacancies in hotels to get temporary lodging for their customers. 

With all that confusion going on, the local school department is trying to establish a routine for families 

Superintendent Robert Adams oversees the Redding School District and two additional districts. He's working to make sure that classes start as planned on August 15 for the 3,000 students in his schools.

And, he's hoping to offer peace of mind to parents.

"They need to get their lives back on track, so it would be nice to have a safe location for their kids to be every day. The kids can get support and meet with their friends and also get some normalcy in their lives, so they don't have to live the chaos that's going on," Adams said. 

Teachers are supposed to return to work next week. But with over 1,000 homes damaged or destroyed by the Carr Fire,  the district is still trying to assess just how many teachers were affected, and figure out how to get them the support they may need. 

The good news is that no campuses in the Redding school district were damaged. "Smoke in the air will always be an issue," Adams said. "But we have some time before school starts."

But it's a different story outside the city of Redding. 

"The entire town of Shasta had extensive damage, and we know there's some damage to the Shasta Union Elementary School campus," Adams said. The campus has been described as looking like a war zone, and there's an effort underway now to find a temporary space for its 147 students when school begins. 

Meantime, in the days before the first day of classes, Sequoia Middle School has been designated as a safe space for displaced families to get their kids out of the smoke, and keep them distracted, while the grown-ups deal with the business side of fire recovery. 

It's a free day camp set up this week in the school's auditorium, where children can hang out with people their own age, watch movies, draw pictures - and even create signs for first responders and write thank you notes. 

Recreation Manager Shannon Lundberg says these activities are cathartic for kids who  may not understand why they can't go home. "We make space, if they want to talk, we're here, but we're not going to force them to talk about it," she said.

The fire was 27 percent contained on Tuesday morning.

Reported by: Holly Quan

Written by: Diana Shook