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El Dorado County Students Displaced By Caldor Flames

GRIZZLY FLATS (CBS13) — More than a quarter of the students at a school district in El Dorado County have lost their homes due to the Caldor Fire.

The impact is driving the district to reach them in new ways.

"Children are only young for so long and I don't want to raise my kids in a burned-out forest," said Jamaela Gilmete, one of the hundreds who lost their home in Grizzly Flats due to the fire.

It's a community she was proud to call home after moving there from Mountain House five years ago.

"After moving to Grizzly Flats, within six months, I had more connections and close friendships than I had had in seven years. It's very tight-knit," Gilmete said.

This mother of two is working on her nursing credential from the family's new rental in Cameron Park and struggling with what to do next.

"I don't know if we are going to move back up there," she said.

Her schedule has changed a lot since the fire ripped through her community.

"Schools are doing satellite bus stops. It's a whole schedule change," she said.

Gilmete now drives her boys to a nearby Safeway, and they ride a bus 45 minutes to Pioneer Elementary in Somerset. Her son Mason was glad the option was available.

"I wanted to stay in the same school," Mason said. "Because all my friends are here."

"We have been able to keep other students in Citrus Heights, Orangevale, Shingle Springs, Pilot Hill," said Pioneer Superintendent Annette Lane.

More than 70 of the 300 students districtwide lived in homes that were burned. The district is linking them to services.

"We want to help them do everything they can to stay connected," Lane said.

Pioneer had already brought in a full-time counselor to deal with the impact of the coronavirus.

"Of course our focus has shifted from dealing with the pandemic to dealing with losing a home or being evacuated for an extended period of time," Deborah Atkins said.

Lane says it's temporary.

"We will see how long it lasts. Right now our plan is to keep them in the schools and not make too many changes," she said.

Much like the rental home Gilmete is in.

"I don't want to move them to a school now, then have to move them again once we find a permanent home," Gilmete said.

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