Three months after the Tubbs fire tore through the Anova school for children and young adults with autism at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, the first wave of students are set to return to the campus Monday.
The fire gutted the school and an auditorium on the east end of the facility but spared the rest of the main building.
With the fire debris now cleared, Anova CEO and founder Andrew Bailey said it’s safe for the 125 students to return to the facility off Mark West Springs Road after being dispersed across Sonoma County.
The 35 adult students who moved after October’s wildfires into Anova’s administration building near the county airport will be the first to return. Bailey said they’ll occupy a space inside the main building that escaped the blaze, while the rest of the students will move into portables, likely by the end of the month.
Construction crews have worked over the past few days connecting water and electricity to the portable classrooms at the south parking lot, where the school once had its basketball courts, he said.
“We’ll be there for however long it takes for the Luther Burbank Center to rebuild,” Bailey said. “We’re anxious to get our family back together, to get our students and our teacher back in one place.”
After the fire destroyed the school, students in kindergarten to fourth grade moved to the former Merryhill Country School in Bennett Valley, Bailey said. Classes for fifth- to 12th-graders were held in the Healdsburg Community Center.
Elise Krawchuk said her sixth-grader, Aidan, 11, is excited to get back to the site and be with his schoolmates after being separated for the past three months. He’s attended Anova since he was in kindergarten.
Krawchuk, 37, said she worries all the changes and construction that’ll take place at the site could overwhelm her son, who like most of his classmates has sensory-processing problems. She said she takes comfort, though, in knowing he’ll be safe and taken care of by faculty members and therapists.
“I know they’re going to do the best for him,” she said. “It’s like having co-parents. They always have his back.”
Krawchuk said her son is most worried about replacing the playground destroyed in the fire. The school spent two years raising money for the equipment, which had been delivered just days earlier.
Bailey said he plans to replace the playground, classroom furniture, music instruments, and other equipment and materials with donations received from all over the country, including $174,000 through a GoFundMe fundraising campaign. The school also received $500,000 from the crowd-funding wine site, Nakedwines.com, which launched a fire relief fund in November.
“We’ll get the equipment we need. We’ll refurnish (the school), but it’s really important that we’re back together,” Bailey said. “I’m tapping my feet and counting the days.”
You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.