Kenwood, Dunbar schools open and ready for learning
Kenwood Elementary School and Dunbar Elementary School welcomed back students after nearly three weeks of closure, helping kids return to normal routines after devastating wildfires rocked the Sonoma Valley and beyond.
While the Kenwood School campus was relatively unscathed from nearby fires, Dunbar came close to very serious damage. The play equipment in the Kindergarten yard was lost to fire, as well as the school garden. Most significantly, the outdoor Haver Stage was destroyed as well as all the props and costumes used for the fifth grade’s annual melodrama, a production worked on all year, and a rite of passage before moving on to middle school.
A fundraising effort has already begun to replace what’s been lost. There is a Go Fund at www.gofundme.com/dunbar-elementary-school.
Three Dunbar families lost their homes, and at Kenwood, six families and two staff members’ homes were destroyed. The school is collecting gift cards to help fire victims, and they can be dropped off at the Kenwood School office.
School officially opened for Dunbar on Oct. 24. The day before, the campus was open for students to have a quick visit with teachers and staff. On the first day back, the Dunbar School Dolphin mascot (in a new costume worn by a staffer who shall remain nameless) rode the school bus to school with many students, much to their delight.
Dunbar was the only school site in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) with fire-related damage. To prepare for reopening, all SVUSD schools were cleaned and power washed and had HVAC filters replaced. In addition, school staff received training on how to address the social and emotional needs of students.
Parents, staff, and other volunteers got right to it by putting on Dunbar’s annual Halloween Carnival on Oct. 28.
At Kenwood, the school was visited by a team of representatives from state and county agencies to inspect the school, and gave assurances that it was ready to reopen. Among the safety measures taken were a professional cleaning of classrooms, new air filters, and water testing.
To assist re-entry for students, staff received training on how to talk to youth after traumatic events, brought in therapy dogs Olive and Wager to spend time with the kids, and licensed school counselor Susan Raymond was available on an ongoing basis.
“It is our goal as a staff to return to “normalcy” as soon as possible with regard to our school routine,” said Principal/Superintendent Bob Bales. With this in mind, the annual Halloween Parade went off as planned.