Creek Fire: 1 school planning to return to distance learning next week

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For families living in the area -- school-age children have missed nearly a month of distance learning.

But as crews work to get the upper hand on the Creek Fire, schools like Pine Ridge elementary say they're planning to hit the books starting next week.

Surrounded by utter destruction -- Pine Ridge Elementary is still standing -- while the community rallies to get back on its feet after the Creek Fire displaced thousands.

"It's quite a tragedy. We got a lot of folks that are reeling, a lot of people that are healing in different ways and timelines, so we're working really hard to be as sensitive as possible," Pine Ridge Superintendent Steve Rosa.

Pine Ridge Superintendent Steve Rosa says his plan, together with the Fresno County Office of Education, is to lead with compassion.

Despite no structural damage to the school itself, Pine Ridge is still not safe enough for kids or staff to return any time soon, so administrators are looking into sites around Sierra Junior High -- which is about 10 miles away.

"There are some portable buildings we can utilize as well as look to bring in other portables or trailers for a school office. Possibly use some shared space there at the Jr. High, our own bathrooms for the elementary kids, things like that," Rosa said.

The school has been shut down since the fire sparked and evacuation orders were issued September 4.

In the meantime, Rosa has worked to support students and staff during this challenging time as he expects to resume distance learning on Monday with a goal to return to in-person teaching in the coming weeks

"I'd like to get them back as soon as possible, hopefully within four to six weeks on campus. I think that's important for the healing process, is to get everybody back."

For Rosa, it's his first year on the job.

A learning experience he won't soon forget after being named superintendent in the middle of a pandemic and now dealing with a natural disaster.

"The human spirit is an amazing thing and that resilience and hope are real things for people," he said. When you get a community that is this tight knit and they have something happen this bad to everyone, all they want to do is help."
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