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Santa Rosa Public Schools Remain Closed While Decontamination Underway

SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Santa Rosa schools and Sonoma County schools will be reopening in phases, starting this week.

The top priority now is decontamination and the clean-up process is a long and complicated one.

Forget paper and pencils, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and cleaning solutions are the new school supplies for Santa Rosa post-fire.

Santa Rosa schools superintendent Diann Kitamura said, “There has been some sort of damage to every single one of our schools.”

To mitigate it, the Santa Rosa School District has had a team of 200 people working around the clock for a week and a half, getting its 2 million square feet cleaned up and ready for students.

“We actually had what’s called a hygienist from a laboratory come in and sample before we cleaned, then we re-mediated with HEPA vacs and air scrubbers and washing and pressure washing and then that hygienist come back in and re-tests again,” Kitamura said.

But that’s just Santa Rosa School District, which is expected to reopen 11 schools on Friday and 13 on Monday.

Other districts in the county did it differently, six of which opened Monday.

Sonoma County Office of Education Associate Superintendent John Laughlin said, “We don’t have concerns about those schools that have already opened because they made their best  judgment given the information that they had.”

There are very clear standards through OSHA and other agencies about safety standards in the workplace. But when it comes to children, those safety standards aren’t as clear, which has made the cleaning process more complicated.

“We have been diligent in our efforts to contact different state agencies and to assure that we are doing all that we according to the standards being presented to us. At times there have been  different messages that come down, but we’ve had to balance that with our best judgement, with local control and things like that,” Laughlin said.

Sonoma County is asking for the public’s patience. Parents and students in Sonoma County can go to the Sonoma County Office of Education website to see which schools are open or when they are expected to reopen.

Meanwhile, students in Napa went back to class on Monday as all public schools reopened.

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