By Lynal Ingham
Although students and teachers were unable to return to Foothills Adventist Elementary School after its main building was destroyed in the Glass Fire, they began in-person classes on Oct. 19—thanks to their sister schools up the hill in Angwin. Pacific Union College Elementary School and PUC Preparatory School opened their doors and provided classrooms for the K-8 students.
On the first day back, Lynne Hattendorf and Lori Holm—the counseling team from Loma Linda Academy—talked with each class about feelings they might be experiencing. “They taught the children intentionally how to express their hidden emotions in positive ways, both verbal and nonverbal, such as coloring, sharing their stories, and petting a dog,” said The Haven church Pastor Josie Asencio. She and St. Helena church Pastor Robert Kurtz were on hand to support the Foothills community.
Three golden retrievers from Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry were on campus all morning. One boy spent 45 minutes with a comfort dog. He had escaped the Camp Fire with his grandmother, lost his previous school, moved to Deer Park—and has now lost his second school. Although his home is still standing, he had not yet been able to return to it.
Educators and students found some cheerful surprises when they walked into their substitute classrooms. Students from Middletown Adventist School had created welcome posters, and PUC Elementary students had left encouraging letters. The Oklahoma Conference sent Adventist hug bears (stuffed animals) for each student and staff member, with some left over for others. The Napa Community church provided a plant and baked goods for each teacher, and staff from the NCC education department brought breakfast treats and lunch for all.
The school has received an abundance of generosity! PUC Elementary, The Haven church, and others have donated school supplies, textbooks, and playground equipment. People are sponsoring new Bibles for the upper-grades students who lost theirs in the fire. Foothills alumnus Sarah Racker set up a GoFundMe page, “Help us rebuild the Foothills Elementary Library,” to raise money for new books. The California Department of Education provided Chromebooks, iPads, hotspots, external monitors, and Wacom boards for each of the teachers at no cost.
“The Lord has been blessing and taking care of Foothills,” said Principal Rob Ingham. “The teachers and students feel very grateful for all the support and love that has been poured out on their behalf. As school gets back into a routine, there continue to be needs, but we know God moves ahead and provides, even before we ask.”