SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — The October firestorm that roared through Santa Rosa destroyed nearly everything in its path that included Cardinal Newman High School.
Or almost all of Cardinal Newman and its neighboring St. Rose Elementary and Middle School.
But on Monday morning, after weeks of reconstruction, students will once again being filling the schools’ halls and classrooms.
“I was amazed that we had at least half the school, ‘Cuz I didn’t think we’d have anything,” said Principal Graham Rutherford of when he saw the school the morning after the fire. “And then it was like, we have half a school … We can do this (rebuild).”
It’s been a hectic three months with classes split between four different parish churches in the area. Twenty-two portables were brought in to temporarily replace classrooms, the library and administration building that were lost to the flames.
The artificial turf on the baseball field melted and even though the football field was undamaged, the team had to practice and play at other schools which held a lesson of its own.
“You know,” Rutherford said. “There are more important things than winning — it’s participating.”
Right next door, St. Rose Elementary and Middle School suffered a double disaster.
After losing its pre-school, kindergarten and 2nd-grade classrooms to the fire, they then had to completely re-do all the surviving buildings because the water company restored pressure before the fire sprinklers were shut off, spraying 5,000 gallons of water into the rooms.
“First fire, then flood,” said Brian Wheeler, project superintendent for GMH Builders. “Yes, exactly — it made the mess bigger to clean up.”
All that’s missing was a plague of locusts.
And yet, through it all, the principal says the kids have learned that a school is much more that a collection of building, it is the people who gather there.
“This was a tremendous, testing, difficult time but, in the end it also is something that we’ve learned a great deal from and we are stronger for it,” Rutherford said.
There’s still a lot of work ahead, but Monday morning when the schools reopen to again teach the “Three R’s” there will now be a fourth — Resilience.