Paradise educators find resilience amid fire’s destruction


By David Washburn and Diana Lambert for

They can’t dwell on what the fire has taken from them, or the losses still to come. So they focus on Dec. 3. That’s the day people responsible for the Paradise Unified School District want school to be back in session.

“What will it look like? We don’t know,” said Kindra Britt, a public information officer with the Placer County Office of Education and one of many from outside Butte County who’ve joined the recovery effort. “People are running on fumes — they’re running on less than fumes. It gives them a lot of hope to know there will be a date, that on Dec. 3 something will happen.”

When that day arrives, it will have been 25 days since Nov. 8, the day the Camp Fire decimated the town of Paradise and neighboring communities, claiming at least 79 lives and consuming more than 10,000 buildings. The wildfire, the deadliest in California history, either destroyed or badly damaged all nine campuses in Paradise Unified along with six charter schools. At latest count, some 700 people were still missing.

Since early last week, administrators, teachers and staff have been working out of makeshift offices in the city of Chico. Their first order of business has been locating the families of the more than 3,500 Paradise Unified students to confirm that they survived the fire, find out if they lost their homes and get a sense of their plans going forward.

As of Wednesday, they’d reached nearly 90 percent of the district’s students and none have been reported among the dead, said Butte County Superintendent Tim Taylor. But no one can be certain how many students will actually show up when classes resume, or where.

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