Schools Get Relief from 2017 Wildfire Damages

A new bill is making it's way to the governor's desk, and federal grant money just came through,all to help schools impacted by last year's wildfires.

Posted: May 3, 2018 4:00 AM
Updated: May 3, 2018 10:15 AM

Butte County, Calif. -- California schools that were impacted by last year's wildfires are now getting some help from the federal government.

Last October, Northern California fires closed nearly 600 schools with about 260,000 total students.

While most schools in Butte County did not suffer any structural damages from last year's wildfires four different districts took a financial hit when they had to shut down because of wildfires.

That includes issues with hazardous smoke and evacuations during the Cascade, Ponderosa and Cherokee fires last year.

And now, the California Department of Education has agreed to give $14.4 million to all California schools that are in the same boat.

"We caught a real big break right up at Feather Falls, the fire came right up to the school and across the street was devastated, Bangor lost some sheds but nothing significant like the total wipeout of a school," said BCOE Superintendent Tim Taylor.

Along with Bangor and Feather Falls, Golden Feather in Concow and Pioneer in Berry Creek were also affected last year by the different wildfires.

The state is reimbursing lost costs for school closure days, and in some cases repairing fire damage, removing ash and debris, and paying for mandatory environmental cleanups.

Taylor says there's a missing piece in the damage assessment.

When a fire destroys an area, families are uprooted, attendance goes down, and this creates a big drop in state funding for the following school year.

"In Sonoma they lost schools and the districts lost kids, about 20% of their attendance, so this bill is asking that schools stay fully funded while they re-build. Same with our schools - we need some time to get those families back, rebuild their houses and invite new kids in," said Taylor.

The bill would make it so that after a wildfire, the state continues to provide the same amount of money that a school got before a fire impacted them, for three years rather than just one year as it is now.

The legislation has passed through committee and is heading to the governors desk.

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