SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Getting kids back in school is a big step for a North Bay community beginning the recovery process the devastating wildfires.
But before the children can get back to class, teachers have to be ready for them. In Santa Rosa, many teachers who lost everything in the fires now have a place to stay.
And it’s all thanks to some quick thinking.
For the first day back at Piner High School, history teacher Zoe Miller said she was returning to more than just a classroom.
“This is my home away from home,” she said through some tears. “It’s actually nice because it’s got some familiar things that I’ve collected.”
Her real home in the Larkfield-Wikiup area burned in the Tubbs fire. Thanks to a fast-acting friend, her family has a place to stay, as do most of displaced teachers in the Santa Rosa City Schools District.
The board made sure of it.
“As soon as we started thinking about coming back to school, we realized our teachers are just as affected as our students,” said Santa Rosa City Schools Board President Jenni Klose. “And they need to be together so they can be there for students. Which you can’t do while couch surfing.”
So Klose and the Superintendent Diann Kitamura made sure the FEMA process was started for their staff: They got the head of the apartment association to give them advance availability announcements on rentals. Klose wrote a letter of recommendation for teachers to present with their applications. Meanwhilde, other board members contacted vacation rental owners about freeing them up for housing that prioritizes teachers.
“As teachers who have been affected by this, whether we lost our houses or were evacuated or knew someone who was, we have to be upright, we have to be able to function and be supported in order to support children who are much more fragile,” said Miller.
In Santa Rosa City Schools, almost 80 teachers lost their homes only 22 still need a place to stay.
So while successful thus far, the school board said it won’t stop until everyone has a home and a place to prepare for the school days ahead.