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Nearly 100 CTA members came to the CTA Chico office today to fill out CTA Disaster Relief grant forms. It’s the first time many colleagues have seen each other since the “Camp” fire broke out Thursday, November 8, literally burning the town of Paradise, CA, to the ground.  There are 42 people confirmed dead and 7,177 structures destroyed, including schools and educators’ homes.

Child care was provided and each child left with a book or coloring book.  After filling out the form, each member left with a CTA Goodie Bag containing gift cards, hand sanitzers, lotions, first aid kits and tooth brushes. Members say they are grateful for the support and resources provided by CTA.

“Teachers are so appreciative of the opportunity to come in, ask questions and apply for CTA resources.  They’re feeling more secure leaving the building than when they come in.  We can’t give them guarantees, but I can share with them what CTA and the district are doing.  They find it reassuring,” said Teachers Association of Paradise (TAP) President David Smith.

*In the photo above: Teachers Association of Paradise President David Smith and TAP Vice President Rachel Kagan help Victoria Steindorf complete the CTA disaster relief application.

“So many sad stories and so many acts of heroism and kindness.  It’s hard to narrow on one person or one story,” he noted about all those who pitched in to save lives.  “Bus drivers were dropping off students that morning and when they saw what was happening, they immediately turned around and picked up students.  When the bus ran out of room, teachers put kids in their cars and took them to Chico.  They stayed with them until they could be reconnected with their families – some after 8 p.m. that night.”

There are about 250 educators who live or teach in Paradise.  “Teachers like me who live in Chico or Oroville – we said to our colleagues GO! We got this – we’ll evacuate students,” Smith said. “We couldn’t imagine the potential of losing our families and our homes.”  Some teachers couldn’t leave their students and they didn’t have time to go home and pack any belongings.

The teachers and staff have all been accounted for, Smith said.  They’re working with building principals to make sure all the students are accounted for.  The logistics are mind-boggling,” he said.

IMG_0887THANK YOU to volunteers like Tammy Dugan, Thermalito Teachers Association (red sweater at right), who greeted teachers, logging them onto computers and getting them into the application room in an orderly fashion.

Teachers want to help out – what can they do?

Teachers are still in shock, so they don’t know what they need. “It’s like buying Christmas presents when you don’t know what to buy,” Smith says.  “Honestly, cash is the best thing right now or gift cards for groceries or essentials.”  He noted teachers who lost their home have no place to store physical donations. Their concern is where will they live – and if they’ll have a job.  Smith says he understand area superintendents are getting together to figure out when school can start. Educators are voicing concerns because district officials say they’ll be paid for November.  “We hope we can get the questions answered soon about paychecks in December and January,” he said.

All Butte County public schools will be closed through Friday, November 23 so districts can deal with the aftermath of the fire.

Want to donate?

  • Camp Fire / Paradise Teachers GoFundMe – Started by Chico teachers, the funds will be distributed to teachers through the CTA Chico Service Center.
  • CTA Disaster Relief Fund – CTA members in Paradise are applying for this grant , which is a separate, special fund just for CTA members who have experienced significant losses due to disasters in California.  Members have asked how to donate to this CTA fund. Do so at this link.
  • Butte County Schools Fire Relief Fund through the North Valley Community Foundation  – Established to provide a one-stop location where individuals or organizations can provide support directly to schools in Butte County, donors can either specify a district or school, designate a specific use (textbooks, clothes, etc.) or make an open donation.  “Open” donations to schools or districts will be allocated in an amount proportional to the number of students that lost homes within those schools or districts. Schools will have discretion to spend this money as they see fit once they receive it.

(*Photos by Curtis Lyon)