Santa Rosa students displaced by fire resume classes at new school site

Roseland Collegiate Prep high school students returned to classes at the Roseland Creek Elementary campus, in Santa Rosa on Monday, October 23, 2017. Eight classrooms and the gymnasium were destroyed by fire at the Roseland Collegiate Prep campus. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)


Roseland Collegiate Prep students were back in class Monday, some of them doing school activities they haven’t done in years, such as coloring and sitting cross-legged on the floor.

With their campus badly damaged by the Tubbs fire two weeks ago, nearly all of RCP’s 250 high school students resumed their studies in 10 empty classrooms at Roseland Creek Elementary School, a pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade campus in southwest Santa Rosa.

The RCP students seemed little bothered by the unmistakably childlike environment of the elementary school, said Monika Scoby, an RCP art instructor. Just outside Scoby’s high school art class, young children frolicked on a playground, their playful screams and laughter come in through the open windows.

“We had circle time; that was a little awkward,” said Scoby of her high school students. “But they were able to appreciate the space... I told them to sit ‘criss-cross applesauce.’ ”

After being displaced by the fire, RCP’s students were separated into two camps — middle school and high school students. The 200 middle school students were accommodated at Roseland Elementary School while the high schoolers were sent to Roseland Creek, said Amy Jones-Kerr, superintendent of Roseland School District.

The Roseland School District was among five school districts in Sonoma County that resumed classes, two weeks after the North Coast’s most destructive natural disaster forced their closure. The other districts include Bellevue, Bennett Valley, Oak Grove and all Sonoma Valley District schools except for Dunbar, which is reopening today.

The county’s alternative education classes at Amarosa Academy also resumed Monday. Rincon Valley schools were planning to reopen today.

“It’s great to see school buses back out on the road, taking students back to school where they can regain a sense of routine and normalcy,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County superintendent of schools. “I’m grateful to school employees who have worked around the clock to reopen their doors to students while keeping health and safety a top priority.”

Geyserville schools are tentatively opening Wednesday, Oct. 25; Santa Rosa City Schools are slated to be opened in phases, beginning on Oct. 27. And both Mark West and Piner Olivet Union are expected to open next week, Oct. 30.

At the entrance to Roseland Creek, a large banner read, “Welcome RCP Grizzlies.”

Anna Cruz, an 18-year-old RCP senior whose Coffey Park home was destroyed, said returning to school offered her some comfort, though it feels “a little weird” being at a different campus.

“It feels a little better seeing my friends,” said Cruz.

Cruz, her younger sister, mother and father lived on San Miguel Road. The four now are sharing a room at Cruz’s grandmother’s house in west Santa Rosa, near Biella Elementary School.

Cruz said she and her family had only minutes to flee their neighborhood. She said she was able to pack only a small sports bag with some clothes, souvenirs from her quinceañera party and her phone.

Her family is having trouble finding housing and her mother, a certified nursing assistant, now has to travel to San Rafael for work after the senior living facility in Fountaingrove where she worked was closed, she said.

“I’m feeling a little overwhelmed,” she said Monday. “We’re trying to look for an apartment, something long-term.”

Jones-Kerr said about a dozen RCP families and one RCP teacher lost homes to the fire, as well as eight district staff members. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, district staff rallied together to assess how many families and district staff were affected.

District leaders also came together to figure out how they were going to accommodate RCP students and staff displaced from their campus, which is located behind Cardinal Newman High School, at the site of the former all-girls Ursuline High School.

Jones-Kerr said the district has a short-term solution for students displaced by the fire. A new school for the district’s Roseland University Prep students is scheduled for completion this fall. RCP students will now occupy the old RUP campus on Sebastopol Road, at Timothy Road.

Jones-Kerr said the property owner, the Friedman family, has agreed to extend their lease though the next school year, with an option to renew.

Eli Weinzveg, RCP assistant principal, said the RCP students are being eased back into their academic schedules.

“We didn’t want to rush back into curriculum,” Weinzveg said. “We wanted to let the students take some time to decompress... Giving our students time to talk is really important.”

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or On Twitter @renofish.