Dunlap Elementary School vacant due to smoke from the Rough Fire

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Not a single child's laugh was heard on the campus of Dunlap Elementary School on Friday. The normally busy school is vacant after being forced to evacuate because of smoke and threat from the Rough Fire.

Principal of Dunlap Elementary School Keith Merrihew said, "Some of our students have been affected by the evacuations and we're working with them Red Cross has set up a shelter in Sanger and we're working with them closely."

The campus could stay this way for some time as firefighters work tirelessly to contain the fire which has grown to more than 117,000 acres. The thick smoke surrounds the school. Ash is even seen on the water fountains. Principal Merrihew says Friday morning they were able to safely bus most of their students away from the danger to Jefferson Elementary in Reedley and A.L. Conner Elementary School in Orange Cove.

Merrihew said, "We looked at what we could do as a long term solution as smoke conditions -- there's air quality issues there's road closures there's the threat of fire there's continuing evacuations."

The Principal at Jefferson Elementary School, Augustine Villarreal, said, "We are very happy to help the transition has been smooth the communication has been very well done."

At Jefferson, Dunlap teachers created as much normalcy as possible for the students. They continued their lessons plans with those who did show up -- in seven classrooms that were being used by Jefferson for parent education classes.

Villarreal said, "The parent program is still going on but we've asked them to move to a different portion of campus so we could accommodate our students from Dunlap."

Some of the children are being temporarily taught at home or a different school where family members attend. While they get used to their new classroom -- school officials say some of the kids are excited and think of it is a fun field trip. And while the air is better down in Reedley than it is in Dunlap, administrators have still decided to eliminate outdoor playtime while the air quality is still bad.

It's unclear when exactly the students will be able to return to campus but as long as the Rough Fire remains a threat -- there won't be any class at this elementary school.

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