Our Future After the Fire: The future of the Paradise Unified School District

Action News Now launched a new series of reports, Our Future after the Fire, each Thursday night and Friday morning exploring an issue with a long-term impact as a result of the fire.

Posted: Jun 7, 2019 10:55 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2019 12:27 PM

PARADISE, Calif. - The school year is coming to a close for North State students, and for the Paradise Unified School District, it has been a long year. 

Action News Now took a look back - and more importantly, a look forward - in regards to the district.

The superintendent of the district feels very strongly that the survival of the town of Paradise and the survival of the school district go hand-in-hand. 

For every school in Paradise, it has been a silent seven months as all have either been damaged or destroyed by the Camp Fire. 

Michelle John was once the principal of Paradise High School, and now she is the superintendent of the district. 

"It's been horrific," she said. "There's no word to describe what we've been through. There's no preparation."

After the fire, it took one month, some creativity, and the generosity of the surrounding school districts to get Paradise students back into the classroom. 

Bird Street School in Oroville became the home of students from Paradise Elementary. It has been a school year like no other for veteran teacher Laura Taylor. 

"When we first got back together again in December that was the happiest day," Taylor said. "It was ... so, so good to see those kids streaming through the doors in the cafeteria. We didn't know how many would come back."

Only one in four students came back and inevitable, the six months after the fire was not necessarily filled with joy. 

"There's been a lot of sad days," she said. "[A] sad day is when a student comes to school and says, 'this is my last day.' Sad days are when a child says 'I'm starting to forget what my house looks like.' Sad days are when they talk about their friends and they hope they're OK and they don't know where they are."

John said the plan for the fall is to bring the students that attended Ponderosa and Paradise Elementary together at Paradise Intermediate School. 

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