SACRAMENTO--State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Thursday that the California Department of Education (CDE) has launched a statewide fundraising effort to bolster aid for schools in regions ravaged by wildfires and other disasters.
Thousands of students, families, and educators across California have endured weeks of back-to-back challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, power outages, and poor air quality. The new CDE Emergency Response Fund, launched Thursday in partnership with the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF), will support the rapid generation of resources to schools facing unprecedented loss and uncertainty.
“Too many of our school communities are hurting and have endured more challenges than many of us will experience in a lifetime,” Thurmond said. “Californians are resilient, generous, and always have each other’s backs in times of crisis. Let’s continue to come together for our communities in need so they can get back on their feet.”
Those wishing to donate to the CDE Emergency Response Fund can visit its GoFundMe page. Funds will be used for essentials such as food, water, computers, internet hotspots, personal protective equipment, and other supplies.
"It has been amazing to witness the strength and compassion of Californians in response to this devastating wildfire season. Several county offices of education mobilized immediately to gauge need and work with us to direct supplies,” said Jessica Howard, Chief Executive Officer of the CDEF. “Building on other successful partnerships with the California Department of Education, we will provide rapid and flexible support to those in need and ask you to contribute to the CDE Emergency Response Fund so we can continue this important work."
Last month, at the height of this season’s wildfires, as many as 71 schools and more than 23,000 students were at one time located in known evacuation zones. At least four schools in three counties have been damaged or destroyed.
The new fundraising effort builds on relief work already underway. The CDE, in partnership with the Governor’s Office and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, has worked in recent months to deliver resources to school communities in need, including 40,000 N95 masks to the Butte County Office of Education. The CDE’s emergency response efforts have also secured more than 900 computing and connectivity devices and other essential distance learning accessories, such as headphones and monitors, as communities recover and resume learning.
During a virtual news briefing Thursday, school superintendents from some of the regions hardest hit by tragedies spoke to the tremendous need that remains.
"Whenever schools are impacted by wildfires, there are many hidden costs that are not immediately apparent,” said Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County Superintendent of Schools. “It's vital that we provide the financial support needed to ensure that student learning is uninterrupted."
"We are familiar with devastating fire, but we have learned from our past, we are prepared for our present, and we know that no matter how many times we face the flames, we will rise together from the ashes to build our future,” said Mary Sakuma, Butte County Superintendent of Schools. “As our displaced students and their families begin to rebuild, the main areas of need continue to be gift cards for gas, food, and other essential items. We are continually grateful for the support we receive. A special thank you to Superintendent Thurmond and all of CDE for their support of Butte County students."
Questions about the CDE Emergency Response Fund can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An archived broadcast of Thursday’s full media check-in with the State Superintendent can be viewed on the CDE’s Facebook page.
The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education’s website. You may also follow Superintendent Thurmond on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.