1 year later, spirit strong as Cardinal Newman High School looks to rebuild

Santa Rosa High school says it's still waiting for permits, rebuilding what was damaged could take years

Taylor Homer loves his guitar. "I love just learning new things, there's thousands of new things you can learn," said the Cardinal Newman sophomore.

On this fall day, Homer joined the rest of his classmates outside for music class. As they played with the eyes focused on the chords, no one seemed to notice or even care what was behind them. A building with burn scars and holes, surrounded by a chain link fence to keep students out. "It's a little different," said Homer. "Kind of weird having this fire damage, mainly we just keep on playing."

One year later, damage from the Tubbs Fire still very evident on the Santa Rosa campus.

"So this is where our main office building was," said Cardinal Newman President Laura Held as she pointed out the damage on campus. "So a year ago I was astonished. Walking with members of my building and grounds facility committee looking at devastation, buildings were gone."

The administration building was gone, the library, offices, faculty rooms, classrooms, the media center, and a field all gone. Soon after, students were moved to other schools and sports teams practiced on other fields. Three months later students returned to their campus as one. 

Sophomore Lauren Alvear said it was a difficult moment, but one that needed to happen. "It was tough coming back, we were separated for a while. We came back as a community again, and we just needed to re-connect with each other."
A year later Alvear says she and many of her friends, some of who lost homes, don't talk about the disaster but understand what's it meant to the school community. "It's become a stronger bond between all of us. We can all relate more, and we are better friends with each other because of it, so it ultimately brought us all together."

Laura Held says the student body was comprised of 619 before the fire, today it's at 569. The fire did have an impact on who returned, and would even apply. Held says the freshman class is usually 160. This year, about 120.

Today, there are 22 portable classrooms on campus, but they will not be here forever. The school will be re-built once all the permits are obtained.. phase one of a multi-phase rebuild is expected to get underway this month.
Laura Held says long term a master re-build is being planned and will be presented to the community in the coming months. "While I was devastated and astonished by the fire, there was an ignition of energy for me that we will rebuild."