By Shirin Rajaee

ROCKLIN (CBS13) — Thousands of students and teachers in Butte County are out of the classroom as their schools have been either destroyed or damaged by the campfire.

On Wednesday state and local educators gathered to come up with a plan on how students and staff will move forward.

“Our mission is to get the students back in school as quickly and safely as possible and to help the district and others rebuild,” said Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

“A week ago everything was perfectly fine, now it’s all ash,” said Nick Smith. 

Brothers Nick and Ethan Smith, 8th and 9th graders from Paradise, are evacuated at a hotel in Rocklin, wondering if they’ll ever see their classmates again. 

READ: ‘We Are Really Going To Die Now’ Crews Save Mother After C-Section Through Inferno

“What school am I gonna go to now, what am I gonna do? How is this year gonna work out? How am I gonna finish my freshman year?” said Ethan. 

A cloud of uncertainty for thousands of teachers and students who are without a home including a family with five kids also seeking refuge at the Comfort Inn And Suites hotel. 

”I’m a teacher, I want to know if I will have employment to go back to,” said Donny Koehler. 

In Butte County, many schools were damaged or destroyed as the Camp Fire ripped through town. 

“In many cases, there’s no school to go back to,” said Torlakson. 

ALSO: Don’t Forget Your Mask: Drifting Smoke Causing Health Concerns in Sacramento

Representatives from the California Department of Education, Butte County Unified, and the Office of Emergency Services met Wednesday in Chico to come up with a plan. 

“Other counties will be taking students, I talked to the superintendent in Tehama county, they’re taking 30-40 from Paradise… we’re working to match students to teachers,” said Torlakson. “Chico Unified will be handling some that have no classroom to go to.”  

The county is working with FEMA to inspect school sites, to clean up the contamination and smoke issues to get kids back in some of these classrooms that are still standing. Meanwhile, parents can register students in other districts in the county.

The Butte County Superintendent says according to federal law, displaced or homeless kids qualify to go to any school district they now choose. 

READ: CalOES Sets Up Massive Operation To Provide Camp Fire Disaster Relief

One charter school teacher is texting his student’s parents to get them to a new location. 

“We’re temporarily moving to Chico and will be operating down there,” said Kent Wuestefeld. 

And temporary online classes is an option the state is discussing. Torlakson says they’re applying for grants and funding to secure transportation, technology for classrooms, and counseling for students.  

“One of the calls is for 5,000 computers for our teachers and students so they can continue with lesson plans, share info, do reports together,” said Torlakson. 

Another big issue that must be dealt with is students now facing PTSD. That’s why counseling will be so important. 

ALSO: Rebuilding Paradise: City Council Holds First Meeting Since Camp Fire Wiped The Town Out

“I’m worried. I want to know if he’s gonna go back to school, right now he’s got PTSD. He’s 17, he needs to finish high school,” said mom Amber Magana of Magalia. 

A long road sits ahead as devastated communities work to rebuild. 

“It’s so overwhelming, I don’t know how it’s gonna work now,” said Ethan. 

On Friday, The Butte County Office of Education will announce when schools will be open. They will communicate with parents via Facebook. Also, a FEMA resource center will be opening Friday at the old Sears location. 

Shirin Rajaee

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