BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - Thousands of students displaced by the Camp Fire returned to school on Monday, seeing students and teachers for the first time since the fire began four weeks ago.
It was an emotional day as more than 31,000 students returned to school. More than 5,000 students displaced by the Camp Fire returned to different schools and classrooms because the fire damaged or destroyed their homes and schools.
All schools in Butte County have been closed since Nov. 8.
"All of our kids are displaced, most of them are displaced," said Josh Peete, principal of Concow Elementary School. "They are now allowed to go back to their properties, but the majority do not have homes left.
The majority of Concow students are living in Oroville for the time being.
"We are transporting students from those areas into the school so they can be back with their teachers here today," Peete said.
The Concow school was saved during the Camp Fire.
"Unfortunately there were major systems that are damaged," he said. "We operate a public water system that was completely destroyed. It's just going to take time to rebuild."
Peete said that he's expecting about 30 students to come back on Monday for class, which is about half of the total school population.
The Butte County Office of Education held a press conference on Monday morning to discuss the process of getting students back into school and on the right track.
"Nearly every district and charter school in the county had staff that lost homes or were otherwise displaced from homes, about half from Paradise Unified," said Mary Sakuma, deputy superintendent for the Butte County Office of Education."
Sakuma thanked the community for its resilience during this time, using the hashtag #ButteSchoolsStrong.
"We're getting back on our feet," she said. "The Camp Fire knocked us down, but it didn't knock us out."
Peete said that he expects Concow Elementary to be using this space for the rest of the school year.
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