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Healing from trauma, cleanup, as California schools impacted by wildfires prepare to reopen

California Governor Jerry Brown, FEMA Administrator Brock Long and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke tour a school burned by the Camp Fire on November 14, 2018 in Paradise, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Educators in Paradise, California, are facing the daunting task of reopening schools for students.

How long will it take?

Butte County’s countywide public school system, closed since the Camp fire began Nov. 8, is expecting to reopen Dec. 3, the Los Angles Times reported. School district leaders are looking to secure temporary classroom space for schools that burned to the ground.

Multiple schools in the Paradise Unified School District were turned to ashes and the fire also destroyed a number of charter schools in the area, the report states.

“This is the equivalent to setting up a school district in two weeks. There are a lot of logistics, and we want to assure you that we’re on it,” Mary Sakuma, deputy superintendent at the Butte County Office of Education, said told the publication last week.

When the schools reopen, trauma counselors will also be on hand.

“This is not just about buildings,” Sakuma told the Los Angeles Times. “Our staff, parents and students have undergone tremendous trauma. We can’t just come back to school after Thanksgiving like we used to.”

Several days ago, Paradise Unified officials sent out letters to parents that stated they’re looking for classroom space.

“We can tell you that we have secured locations within Butte County that will allow us to have PUSD teachers in classrooms with PUSD students. We are also working on eliminating transportation barriers for our PUSD students so that they will be able to get to these new sites,” the letter stated.

The district is also seeking donations and “other forms of support,” according to the report.

One of the few standing schools, Paradise High, is set to receive a $1 million donation from Rancho Santa Fe businessman Rob Wilson.

The fire burned more than 12,000 homes in the Paradise area. More than 80 were killed and hundreds are still missing.

What about southern California?

In Southern California, the Woolsey fire has also left schools closed from damages, although the situation there is not as severe, according to the report. Malibu has four schools have remained closed since Nov. 9, when a mandatory evacuation was put into place.

Parents have requested the school be thoroughly cleaned up and tested before they reopen. That could take as long as one week.

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