Santa Rosa schools see uncertain futures in wake of fires

Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa burned. Oct. 9, 2017

In a post on Facebook last week, St. Rose Catholic School Principal Kathy Ryan had an uplifting message for preschool students whose classrooms were destroyed by the North Bay fires.

She wanted to assure them that the pet snakes are safe and comfortable in the science lab and Fuego, the tortoise, has found a temporary home away from school.

Fuego, she noted, is the Spanish word for fire.

“Fuego could be our mascot for rising above the ashes,” she wrote.

With six schools in Santa Rosa destroyed or damaged by the fires, rising above the ashes is exactly what hundreds of students and teachers will need to do in coming weeks and months as they attempt to get back to some sense of normalcy in the wake of the worst firestorm in state history.

Founded in 1931, St. Rose, which serves preschool to 8th grade students, was damaged, but not completely destroyed by the fire. The main building sustained some damage to the roof that is repairable, but the primary play structure is gone, as is the covered eating area. The preschool facility burned to the ground, officials said.

School leaders plan to move students around on campus and utilize the chapel when classes resume later this month. In the meantime, the school will organize meetings, which will include a prayer service and art projects to give students a chance to reconnect with classmates and teachers.

St. Rose sits next to Cardinal Newman High School, which was more heavily damaged. The main office building, the library and 19 portable classrooms are a total loss. Four other classrooms have some roof and window damage and the baseball infield and dugouts have some damage.

Like St. Rose, Cardinal Newman is part of the Diocese of Santa Rosa and a spokesman said Tuesday that officials are exploring the idea of online teaching or holding classes in multipurpose rooms. Details are expected later this week.

The fires also destroyed Redwood Adventist Academy in Santa Rosa, a school that educates kindergarten through high school students. Though school officials say there are plans to rebuild, elementary students will resume classes at a local church while high schoolers will head over to a sister school for classes.

Roseland Collegiate Prep, where middle and high school students attend, was also damaged. A sorority at Sonoma State University has raised about $1,000 toward a $5,000 goal to help re-build the gymnasium and other parts of the campus affected by the fire. The school is closed through Friday.

Hidden Valley Satellite, which serves about 80 primary grade students, had five classrooms and the library destroyed by fire. The plan is to move students to the main Hidden Valley Elementary School campus so they can remain with their current teachers and classmates, school officials said.

The Anova Center for Education, Sonoma County's only nonprofit school for children living with autism was demolished by the wildfires, leaving 120 students ranging from 5 to 22 years old without a school.

“In addition to losing our entire campus and all of its contents, we spent two years raising $75,000 for a playground structure that was delivered a few days before the fire and burned to the ground in a box,’’ a school official posted on social media.

The school is collecting donations and asked for help online: “We will rise from the ashes and need your help to rebuild our beloved school.”