Saisha Cory found his old sword while digging through the rubble of his Mark West Springs home. He had designed it in his father’s machine shop when he was 15.
It was a few months after the October 2017 wildfires and Cory, then a senior at Roseland Collegiate Prep, wanted to create a senior project demonstrating the strength of the community following the firestorm.
“(When) I got to my old property, I found the sword that became the centerpiece of my art and I knew instantly I wanted to create a statue with it,” Cory said. “I was trying to come up with what to make when a friend of mine recommended I do a phoenix, and I fell in love with the idea.”
Cory’s phoenix is a compilation of parts from his home and parts from the home of Wendy Valle, a 7th grade teacher at RCP who also lost her home. The phoenix recently received a Best of Show award at the Sonoma County Fair.
It’s become a symbol for the still relatively young school, whose rented home of six years on the old Ursuline High School campus off Old Redwood Highway suffered severe damage during the wildfires.
“We were in final negotiations and about to buy when the fires happened,” said Amy Jones-Kerr, superintendent of the Roseland School District. “Now, we’ve had the property re-appraised and our charter school foundation is finalizing purchase of the property as-is.”
The campus lost its gymnasium and a block of eight classrooms to the fire. A separate building containing 14 classrooms, the cafeteria, a covered outdoor eating space and an additional building called Brecia Hall were spared. One staff member and 12 RCP students lost their homes, four of whom were seniors.
“As a school, we were all deeply saddened by the loss of our home,” said Daniela Cabrera, a senior who is the current RCP Associated Student Body president. “A few of us even snuck onto the campus as the fire was burning just to see how damaged our beloved school was. When the fire ended and reality struck, we were all dreading going back to school.”
The Roseland District charter school, which serves seventh- to 12th-grade students, was forced to spread its students across two Roseland elementary campuses for the first few months following the return to classes.
In December, the campus was able to reunite, this time on the former Roseland University Prep campus on Sebastopol Road. Students who lost their homes received financial donations and the NFL Oakland Raiders football team gave clothes and sports gear to the district.
“It’s basically a warehouse,” said Christine Byrne, a science teacher who is beginning her second year teaching at the school. “But I love it because it feels like a warehouse of knowledge.”
Some of the students had a hard time adjusting to the idea of taking classes on a campus that used to belong to their district rival.
“Imagine having a kingdom as your school surrounded by nature and then downgrading to a warehouse. Not just any warehouse though — your rival school’s,” said Cabrera. “We had to watch as they got their new building and we lost ours.”
This story is part of a monthly series in 2018 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County’s four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage here
Read all of the PD’s fire coverage here