School resumed more than a week ago for thousands of Santa Rosa students. Some returned for a typical school year, while others were still dealing with the pressures of rebuilding their lives after October’s devastating wildfires. We asked seven students who lost a home, school or both about the challenges they faced last year after the wildfires and their feelings about this school year.
Senior, Santa Rosa High School
“The most difficult part of last school year was definitely staying focused. The fire was always on my mind, so I really got behind on my schoolwork. This year, I’m looking forward to being in my house again. I’m really excited for that.
The timetable is probably around March. It’s my senior year, and it’s my last chance to do everything. I think that once I get settled (in my house), I’ll finally be able to relax and just be me.”
Seventh-grader, Redwood Adventist Academy
“(The hardest part was) hearing about what happened over and over again and losing the school. There’s not as many people, and some of my friends are gone.
We haven’t been (on campus) in a while. Everything is still kind of new. It’s really surreal. I don’t know if it will really hit me for a long time.
I’m glad we are back on campus, though, and I’m starting seventh grade.”
Junior, Santa Rosa High School
“Probably the most difficult part was being in a leg brace and having to evacuate (my house) on crutches. I had just had surgery a week or two before (the fires). I tore my ACL and my meniscus. I’m the one who woke everyone up in my house the night of the fires, because I was the only one who was awake, and our power had gone out.
My fourth quarter (of school) was completely overwhelming; we were living at my grandma’s house, and it was hard trying to find a place to do homework since we had a ton of people living at her house at the time. This year at school, I’m just looking forward to doing all the fun stuff again, like going to football games.
Outside of school, (I’m looking forward to) starting the progress on our new house. Our goal was to be in by Christmas, but it’s looking more like May or April now. When we get into our new house, we have a big plan. We’re going to have a big welcome back party. It’s going to be a big blowout with lots of food.”
Junior, Maria Carrillo High School
“I think (one of the most challenging parts of last school year) was readjusting after the three-week break, knowing that I didn’t have any of my previous work, homework or textbooks, especially since I took a few honors and AP classes. There was a lot of catching up to do, and it was hard being able to put all my focus back on to school.
(This year, I’m excited to) be able to start the whole year with a new outlook and not have the weight of the fires anymore. I lived in Coffey Park, and now we’re living in a new apartment. It was a very difficult situation to be in those first few months, but knowing that I wasn’t alone in the whole process (was helpful), especially at school. Lots of teachers were helpful with readjusting and were very flexible with my schedule, but also I feel that some did not necessarily take it to heart and continued giving homework.”
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