Throughout this year, I’ve been digging into the impacts of disasters on schools. There was this newsletter
breaking down the Government Accountability Office report on the growing number of districts dealing with extreme weather events, my feature
earlier this summer about the graduating class of Paradise High School, and a dispatch just a few weeks back on Kentucky teachers
fundraising to help their colleagues in the wake of this summer’s devastating floods.
Experts, parents, teachers, and students have all expressed to me that schools are critical to the recovery of a community after a disaster. But it takes an enormous amount of effort to operate schools during a normal year, let alone in the midst of a pandemic and after a disaster—which is the situation Kristy Warren found herself in following the 2021 Dixie Fire in California.
Warren is the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Plumas County, which was in the wildfire’s path last August. Much of the area was evacuated, and the historic town of Greenville was largely left in ruins. School staff and students alike were displaced for weeks, and some lost their homes entirely.
“After the fire, there was a big push of, ‘We are so resilient,’ you know, and there was just a lot of energy around that. Then, six months later, you add on all the recovery and the trauma and Covid, and everyone’s just tired,” Warren explained to me in February of this year. “It’s just a lot of energy going out, not a lot of it coming in.”
Warren and I stayed in touch, and in August, shortly after the anniversary of the Dixie Fire, I traveled to Plumas County to join her for the first week of the new school year. That included the reopening of Greenville’s two schools.