Homes & Schools Destroyed By California Wildfires – Homeless Teachers & Students Need Help

4 min


The devastation caused by the California wildfires is staggering. The Camp Fire swept through the town of Paradise and neighboring communities in Butte County, destroying 13,000 homes, while the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles County destroyed 1,600 homes and buildings.

Schools and staff in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties have suffered irreparable damage from the wildfires. The situation in impacted schools is dire and school officials are still in the early stages of trying to figure out how to proceed.

The Camp Fire damaged all but one of Paradise Unified School District’s nine schools, and as nearly the entire town was decimated, countless students, teachers, staff and board members have been left homeless. The district is facing an unspeakably difficult situation: finding new schools for an entire district of students.

According to a press release from Butte County Superintendent Tim Taylor, the district will reopen on Monday, Dec. 3.

“One of the most important things for a child in their life is their school and their teacher,” Taylor said. “We want to make sure that while they’ve lost their schools that they haven’t lost hope.”

The district is looking into portable classrooms as an option, and the district would need 100 portables for this to be viable, according to the press release.

The impact of the fires spans far beyond those devastated by the Camp and Woolsey fires. In the week before Thanksgiving, schools from San Diego to San Francisco closed their doors due to poor air quality, meaning that more than 1 million students didn’t attend school.

There are legal processes in place to help school districts impacted by natural disasters to continue to receive funding even though they cannot operate as they normally would. California state law allows schools and education agencies to apply for a waiver so they don’t lose funding based on attendance and state instruction time penalties, according to a press release from the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Another obstacle is the nearly 5,000 students displaced by the fires, students who are now legally considered homeless. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires public schools to enroll homeless students without immunization records or proof of residency.

Schools in California, particularly schools in Butte County, need all the help they can get. Whether you can donate money, material goods or even find the time to write a letter, there are many ways to donate. This website tallies donations received by the BCOE so far. Here’s how you can help:

The Butte County Schools Fire Relief Fund

This fund was created by the Butte County Office of Educations to “provide a one-stop location where individuals or organizations could provide support directly to schools in Butte County. Donors can either specify a specific district or use (textbooks, clothes, etc.) for the funds or make an open donation.” Open donations will be allocated to school districts “in an amount proportional to the number of students that lost homes within those districts. Schools will have the discretion to spend this money as they see fit once they receive it,” according to the fund’s website. Donate here.

BCOE Employee Relief Fund

If you are interested in donating money directly to school employees impacted by the fires, you can donate to the BCOE Employee Relief Fund which provides “a one-stop location where individuals or organizations can provide monetary support directly to the employees of the Butte County Office of Education,” according to the fund’s website. Donate here. 

Donations of material goods, water, food, and clothing

Donations of material goods can be made to the Salvation Army distribution center at 1100 Marauder Street in Chico, Calif. The distribution center can be reached at 530-776-1009.

Children’s book donations

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is collecting books for children displaced by the fire. Books can be mailed to 3589 Westwind Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

Aaron Rodgers NorCal Fire Recovery Fund

Green Bay Packers Quarterback and Northern California native Aaron Rodgers established the Aaron Rodgers NorCal Fire Recovery Fund. According to the donation website, funds will be specifically used for kids programs, housing, and youth, and high school sports. Rodgers donated $1 million to help wildfire victims, and State Farm has pledged up to an additional $1 million for each retweets of Rodgers’ fundraising announcement. Retweet here and donate here.

Send a letter

BCOE superintendent Taylor posted in the BCOE’s live feed on Thanksgiving that letters and gift cards would be welcomed by Paradise schools as students head back to school on Dec. 3. Letters and gift cards can be sent to Butte County office of education 1859 Bird Street Oroville Ca 95966 attn: Butte Schools Strong. Letters will be shared on the new butte schools strong wall, according to the message.

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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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