This first quarterly installment of the Superintendent’s Road Show examines the district’s response to the Holy Fire, as well as post-fire risk. The Holy Fire has scarred the hillsides and mountains above our neighborhood communities, increasing the likelihood of debris flows affecting homes and schools. We want parent and staff households to know the risk, and prepare accordingly.
Crisis management is a departure from the district’s normal back-to-school playbook. With a week until school start, LEUSD was on track to welcome 21,350 students and their teachers on August 13. That changed Monday, August 6, with the start of the Holy Fire. In 72 hours, 21,400 residents and four of our schools faced mandatory evacuation. All LEUSD schools had to be temporarily closed to clean, restore, and certify that ash, smoke, and odors were safely abated.
To successfully open 23 schools after a one week recovery period is a testament to our dedicated teachers and classified workforce. The accompanying PowerPoint narrates our response and recovery actions from August 6 through the opening of school on August 20, so please take a look at our Perspectives on the Holy Fire slideshow.
LEUSD is currently working with the County of Riverside Office of Emergency Management and the City of Lake Elsinore to protect students and staff from any post-fire debris flow threat. Because LEUSD employees are sworn disaster service workers: it is our responsibility to keep students, faculty, and staff safe in any emergency. (See also "Debris Flow FAQ")
A unified command structure is in place to coordinate weather forecasts of potential thunderstorms with voluntary evacuation warnings or mandatory evacuation orders in burn scar areas. The need to be “flood ready” this wet season could span the next two to three years, until burn areas naturally revegetate.
School safety is number one! Schools in the Holy burn area that could be most impacted are Rice Canyon Elementary, Withrow Elementary, Luiseno School, Terra Cotta Middle School, and Lakeside High School. School safety meetings are being hosted in October to communicate with parents and guardians how decisions about affected schools are being coordinated with the County Emergency Operations Center.
Emergency plans for the above named schools include full closure during voluntary evacuation alerts or mandatory evacuation orders, sheltering in place, emergency evacuation, and reunification of student and families in a safe location away from the debris flow threat.
Residents in affected burn areas should attend one of two upcoming community meetings that will address evacuation procedures, hazard maps, and post-fire risk. Officials from County, City, Fire and Police are among the experts available to speak to these topics, and to answer questions from the public.
Upcoming community meetings:
- In Horsethief Canyon Community:
- 24-OCTOBER—Luiseno School Gym, 13500 Mountain Rd., Temescal Valley, CA 92883
- In Lake Elsinore:
- 5-NOVEMBER—6:00 p.m., Terra Cotta Middle School Gym, 29291 Lake St., Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
Because the risk of debris flow could affect many student families and LEUSD employees who reside near the Holy burn scar area, below are official recommendations from the Office of Emergency Management to assist families to be prepared and “flood ready.”
- Sign up for emergency alerts. Visit the County RivCoReady.org web site, or use a mobile phone to sign up for emergency alerts at Alert RivCo. Receiving live alerts is essential once rain or storm conditions change.
- Make a family emergency plan. Have an evacuation plan and go over it with all family members. Consider local shelter locations if evacuated from your home, and what to bring.
- Pack a Kit. Keep a packed go bag for car and work, and list important items to gather when given the order to evacuate. Don’t forget medications, extra clothing, and pet needs.
- Stay Informed. Monitor evacuation alerts, news bulletins, and other resources for vital information and updates during an evacuation.