Springfield High School on Sept. 10 is a respite center site to those affected by fires. ERIN TIERNEY/THE CHRONICLE
Due to the Holiday Farm fire, school districts across the Southern Willamette Valley are delaying the start of its school year, as well as rescheduling technological and material distribution.
Creswell has rescheduled its equipment distribution to families until Sept. 14 and changed its first day of school to Tuesday, Sept. 15. Springfield has changed its first day of school from Sept. 14 to Sept. 21. Pleasant Hill, which started its school year Sept. 1, is delaying delivery of instruction until Sept. 14.
Cottage Grove’s first day has not been impacted as its school opening remains Sept. 21.
“In light of the ever-evolving Holiday Farm Fire affecting so many in our school community, focusing on people is our most important task right now,” Springfield Public Schools officials stated in a news release. “The Holiday Farm Fire has already impacted large portions of our district staff, students and their families, indirectly affecting us all as we care for, worry for, and work to support our family, friends and neighbors.”
Additionally, the district is working to provide resources such as food and shelter for many organizations working on providing aid.
“We are supporting them as they fight fires to support us,” the release stated.
As the district moves forward, kindergarten through third grade will return to in-person instruction in a staggered start with K-1 beginning Sept. 21 in-person, joined by 2nd grade on Sept. 28, and 3rd on Oct. 5, as health conditions allow. Technology distribution was cancelled for the remainder of the week and is scheduled for the following week, Sept. 15-18.
For Pleasant Hill, schools superintendent Scott Linenberger said it is delaying instruction because families are being displaced, the air quality is hazardous and the community has only two sources of power to its homes, and substations have been proactively closed by power companies for safety reasons.
“Information from multiple agencies is saying the fires will continue for a while as firefighters are spread thin throughout the state,” Linenberger said. “The encouraging news is the wind patterns should start shifting away from our area improving the air quality. Our power companies are gaining on the outages and expect to re-open the power substations in our area in the near future.”
Linenberger closed the release with a quote from Oregon Department of Education: “When you can’t control the wind – adjust your sails.”
In Creswell, district superintendent Mike Johnson said the smoke has decreased the air-quality index to a hazardous pollution level, and many Creswell families and staffers are without power; staff members who live in Springfield are on notice for evacuation.
“The health and safety of our staff and students is our absolute highest priority,” he said. “In that regard, the conditions that we are under with the Holiday Farm Fire are directly impacting our ability to work outside to distribute devices and materials for classes.”
Along with delays in tech devices and material, meal distribution and delivery will be delayed until Monday at the regularly scheduled times.
“I realize that this delay of the start of school is disappointing to all of you and I share the same feelings,” Johnson said. “However, I feel this is the safest approach for all considered at this time with these conditions.”