Schools in fire-ravaged Paradise, Calif., struggle to rebuild
On a chilly morning, with a thick fog enshrouding the town, about 40 fifth-graders crammed into a portable classroom in the shadow of Durham’s football stadium and used yellow sticky notes to describe how they felt. “Tierde, sleepy!” “Like nothing.” “Sick & cold, otherwise joyful.”
The exercise has been part of their routine since returning to classes Dec. 3 on a campus that sits a winding, 30-minute drive down the hill from their old school, Ponderosa Elementary, in Paradise, Calif. The fire that swept this swath of Northern California incinerated some of the classrooms at Ponderosa beyond recognition, leaving only the metal skeletons of tiny chairs arranged in rows and circles. It claimed the homes of every child in the fifth-grade class.
The fire that devastated Paradise has left all but two of the small school system’s buildings shuttered. Almost half of the town’s 3,400 students have left, many pushed into far-flung communities — or even other states — by an overwhelmed housing market.