School Resumes Monday for Kids in Butte County. Where Will They Go?

CHICO -- Paradise schools will be back in session on Monday, three weeks after the Camp Fire destroyed nearly the entire community.

"It was just so dark and all the ashes were falling,” said Achieve Charter School freshman Hailee Padgett. “You could barely see it."

That’s the last time Padgett saw her school.

"I remember looking at it and just all the memories going through my head and stuff and, you know, hoping that everyone got out safely," she said.

She's one of more than 5,000 students displaced by the fire.

But unlike many of the other survivors, Padgett helped build the school she lost -- a brand new charter school just completed this year.

“We had just built our site. We just opened in August. We were so excited," said Achieve Principal Kelli Gordon. "We had everything all set up. We got rolling. And we've lost everything."

Now, administrators at Achieve are working on nailing down a temporary location before school starts again on Monday.

"The plan is so far to borrow or lease a building temporarily until we can find a more permanent home, but it's likely that we're not going to be able to go back up to Paradise for several years,” said math teacher James Wood.

The Paradise Unified School District is also working on plans to send its students to different public schools across Butte County next week.

Teachers will not only be in new classrooms with limited supplies but they're also preparing to emotionally support their students.

"Probably nine-tenths or more of our students lost everything in the fire. They don't have a home to go to,” Wood said. “They don't have any equipment. They don't have any clothes. They don't have any school supplies."

School administrators have brought in trauma experts to help teachers work through their own loss and give them the tools to help their students do the same.

"How do you support children who, not only have gone through a trauma, but a huge loss and a grieving as well?" Gordon said. "They're grieving their home. They're grieving their school. They're grieving their community."

But as challenging as getting everybody back to school may be, both teachers and students are excited to be back under the same roof again.

“I'm very excited because, you know, I haven't seen people for almost three weeks and it's like a second family for me,” Padgett said.

Parents unsure of where their child will go to school on Monday can call 211 for help.

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