Thanksgiving break came early for thousands of students in California, but the days off were no cause for celebration. Three school districts in Ventura and Los Angeles counties have closed to make repairs and clean up after the Woolsey fire swept through the area.
No public school campus was directly hit, but a deluge of ashes and smoke raised health concerns — and caused a mess.
Ilan Ramon Day School, a private Jewish school in Agoura Hills, in the path of the fire, lost part of its campus.
The public school districts that will remain closed until Monday, Nov. 26, are Conejo Valley Unified, Las Virgenes Unified and Oak Park Unified.
On Monday, Conejo Valley cataloged for its staff the fire-related problems:
“We have five schools that require intensive disaster restoration, eleven schools requiring deep cleaning, seven schools that require exterior clean up, and five schools that have to be surface cleaned. All of our schools require at least a horizontal cleaning, air scrubbing, deodorization, and replacement of air filters.”
“We are diligently working to make sure our schools are safe, clean and ready for our students to return,” Supt. Mark McLaughlin wrote in a message to the community.
The head of Ilan Ramon Day School told the Jewish Journal that the campus would be closed at least through Wednesday. Getting the school open by then would be a heavy lift, given that the fire destroyed the school’s computer lab, administration building and a bathroom building.
Initially, Head of School Yuri Hronsky heard media reports that the whole campus had been destroyed. But a contact at the local sheriff’s station brought better news.
“He was able to reassure us that it was only the left side of the school that was burning, but the rest of the campus was OK. It’s truly a miracle,” Hronsky told the Journal. “The spaces where the children study and learn are still basically untouched. They’re dirty, but untouched.”
Several other Ventura County schools announced they would be closed at least for Tuesday.
In L.A. County, Malibu schools will remain closed for the rest of the week. Malibu is part of the same school system as Santa Monica, where schools will remain open, according to a Monday statement from the district.
“With evacuation orders still in place, we have been unable to visually inspect our schools directly yet,” said the statement, attributed to Supt. Ben Drati and other administrators. “We have seen photos and videos and reports that all four of our schools appear to be in good condition. We will have inspections and cleaning to do before we resume as the safety of our students and staff is paramount to us.”
The statement acknowledged that getting back to school was the least of the problem for some families:
“The pictures emerging from this ongoing, tragic situation in our community are heartbreaking. ... We are aware that many have lost their homes and many do not know the current status of their homes.