It has been a daunting season for those affected by the California wildfires. With 88 confirmed deaths and more than 150,000 acres destroyed over the 17-day disaster, the now-contained Camp Fire in Northern California has become the deadliest in the state’s history, according to CNN.
In an effort to soften the blow for families displaced by devastating blaze, the Diocese of Sacramento has made a generous offer: free tuition to Catholic schools in the diocese.
The town of Paradise, located in Butte County, was virtually obliterated by the Camp Fire. According to the Catholic News Agency, before the blaze was contained, the Diocese of Sacramento announced it would cover tuition for any Butte County students displaced by the fire.
To get an idea of how generous that offer is, consider that before the fire, Paradise had around 30,000 residents. Tuition for the remainder of this school year will run around $5,000-$6,000, per child.
“Paradise it not that small of a city,” Lincoln Snyder, executive director of schools for the Diocese of Sacramento, told CNA. “It has — or had — nearly 30,000 inhabitants, so the fire left around 4,000 school kids displaced, without any schools to go back to.”
Synder noted that about 90 percent of the city is totally burned, and “what remains probably isn’t going to be usable for a long time.”
The announcement regarding the free tuition came last week, after the diocese held a meeting with the school board and Bishop Jaime Soto. Any open spots in the area’s Catholic schools are now being offered, free of cost, to Camp Fire victims in preschool through high school.
According to CNA, the tuition is being covered through a diocesan fundraiser for displaced students. Expenses including uniforms, backpacks, field trips, lunches and any other school-related items will all be covered.
“We are heartbroken over the devastation the Camp Fire has caused, and the number of families it has left displaced in its wake,” Snyder wrote in a press release last week. “We understand that it may be a long time before students can return to their schools and classrooms in the city of Paradise, and we would like to help by opening up our schools to Butte County students, grades Preschool – 12, who have been displaced by the fires.”
“Many families have lost nearly everything in this fire, and being back in a school can be a major stabilizing force in a child’s life,” he added.
“Though our schools are funded by tuition, we will enroll displaced Butte County students at no cost to the family for the remainder of the academic year,” he announced.
In his interview with CNA, Synder said that several students have already been enrolled, and the diocese could accommodate dozens, and perhaps hundreds more, depending on the availability of individual schools.
“We’ve had several students apply and we’re making good on the offer, and we’re excited to be able to offer these open spots to the students who’ve been displaced,” he said.
The diocese is still accepting donations through a fundraising page on its website.
“Any surplus will be used for future support for these affected families and Catholic schools of the region,” the page notes.
To learn more or to donate to this effort, click here.
(H/T: Catholic News Agency)