Elementary students grateful school still standing in community hit by River Fire

Local News

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. (KTXL) — As most students geared up to head back to school this fall, some were worried their schools had not survived the wildfires that ravaged their communities. 

Every November, Audra Delany teaches her fourth-graders about gratitude. But this Thanksgiving, Delany found her Nevada County students picked up that lesson in their daily lives.

“These kids are especially thankful for everything that they have because it’s been a rough couple of years,” she told FOX40.

In fact, the last time her Chicago Park Elementary School students had a normal school year they were in first grade. 

Their second and third grade years brought school closures and hybrid learning. 

This fall promised a return to normal, but then, a week and a half before school started, the River Fire began to tear through Placer and Nevada counties.

“It got really close to my house. It got right next to our neighbors. It was burnt down their house a little bit,” said student Rae Townsend.

The fire burned over 140 homes and buildings, almost making it to the doorstep of Chicago Park Elementary.

“We didn’t know if the school was burnt down or anything,” said fourth-grader Jonah Walther.

But the school survived, in part because of firefighters’ efforts, which included dropping fire retardant on the campus.

Work went just as quickly to get Chicago Park Elementary cleaned up so school could start on time.

“They must have just worked around the clock,” Delaney said. 

Although not an inch of the campus burned, the effects of the fire lingered. Concerned the retardant toxins had contaminated the wood chips covering the playground, the school closed off the swing sets until the cleanup work could be done.

But as it turns out, there was even more to grateful for on Thanksgiving as the playground reopened again.

“I feel happy, because then I can finally go on the swings,” Rae said.

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