By Faith Hoyt, with Lynal Ingham
When the Glass Fire swept through the area early in the morning on Monday, Sept. 28, Foothills Adventist Elementary School in St. Helena, Calif., lost their main building, Baldwin Hall, to the flames.
The fire burned 67,484 acres and destroyed 1,555 structures, damaging an additional 282, according to Cal Fire.
“Thankfully our families and staff are all safe,” stated Rob Ingham, Foothills principal, on the school’s website. “We are praying for our kids and our neighbors who have also lost so much!”
Three weeks after losing their school building, classes went in-person once again for Foothills students on Oct. 19. Their sister schools up the hill in Angwin—Pacific Union College (PUC) Elementary and PUC Preparatory School—opened their doors and provided classrooms for the Foothills teachers and students.
“I can’t say enough about the wonderful cooperation between the three schools to get education back on track in a very short amount of time,” shared Wayne Gungl, associate superintendent of education for the Northern California Conference (NCC). “The dedicated teachers and staff at these three schools have shown the professionalism and care needed to serve students in the best manner possible. In the middle of a disaster, we are still blessed by God’s character shown in our educators, students, families, churches, and the long list of friends and former students of Foothills Adventist Elementary.”
Many students’ homes did not have power, internet, cell service, or water on their first day back to school. Some families had not yet been allowed back to their homes and were commuting from Napa hotels to school.
PUC Elementary was on fall break on the Foothills’ students first day back in-person, so the Foothills students had the elementary campus to themselves that day.
In response to the loss experienced by Foothills, help and support poured in from all directions. Two Loma Linda Academy teachers—Lynne Hattendorf, school counselor, and Lori Holm, religion teacher—provided on-site information for teachers and parents on student behaviors after trauma and how best to support students. They also worked with each class on feelings they may be experiencing after the loss of their school, evacuation, and being displaced.
Additionally, three K-9 comfort dogs from Lutheran Church Charities were brought on campus on the morning of Oct. 19 to spend time with teachers and students. Each student and teacher had time alone with the dog to talk, pet, or just be still.
From the NCC Education Department, Wayne Gungl, Barry van Iderstein, and Carol Tilstra-Nash were present to bring breakfast treats, to provide lunch for all, and to support teachers. Local pastors Josie Asencio and Robert Kurtz were on hand to support as well.
PUC Elementary provided basic supplies for each student and teacher, which were waiting on each desk, and Middletown school created welcome posters to put in each classroom on Foothills’ first day on PUC’s campus.
Upon hearing the news of the loss, Hawaiian Mission Academy’s Ka Lama Iki campus enlisted students to send a video message to Foothills students.
The Oklahoma Conference sent teddy bears to put on each student’s desk, ready to comfort them. Also on students’ desks were plants and baked treats from the Napa Community Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additionally, The Haven Adventist Church in St Helena provided basic supplies and playground equipment for each classroom.
“There was tremendous support from so many!” said NCC Associate Superintendent Lynal Ingham. “We have people that are sponsoring Bibles for the students, as grades 5 to 8 lost theirs in the burnt building. Others are providing funds for things like textbooks and PE supplies.”
Foothills Alumni have set up a GoFundMe to help replace the library that was lost, and the State of California Department of Education connected with Gungl to provide Chromebooks, iPads, hotspots, external monitors, and Wacom display devices for each of the teachers—all donated at no cost.
“When we picked our spiritual and curricular theme this year, we chose ‘Resilience.’ We wanted to inspire resilience in our students and school family,” Rob Ingham stated. “Little did we know the trials the start of this year would bring! In spite of this disaster to our school and our community, our K to 8th-grade school is still a family and is still helping students grow healthy minds, bodies, and relationships.”
Top of page: When the Glass Fire swept through the area early in the morning of Sept. 28, Foothills Adventist Elementary School in St. Helena, Calif., lost their main building, Baldwin Hall, to the flames.
Photos: NCC Education Department
Middletown Adventist School students pray for Foothills Adventist Elementary School students following Foothills’ loss of their school building to the Glass Fire.
Foothills’ 5th- and 6th-grade students returned for in-person instruction on Oct. 19 on PUC Elementary School’s campus.
Three K-9 comfort dogs from Lutheran Church Charities came on campus on the morning of Oct. 19 to spend time with teachers and students. Each student and teacher had time alone with the dog to talk, pet, or just be still.