VANCOUVER -- Students displaced by the fire that destroyed Vancouver's Crestline Elementary last weekend started went back to class on Thursday morning - at new schools.
Five other area elementary schools took in the students and their teachers, keeping them together by grade.
All of Crestline's 4th and 5th graders shifted to Fircrest Elementary. Principal Margaret Varkados said it was a huge logistical challenge, but the kids will be able to get back on their feet to learn quickly, which was the ultimate goal.
Earlier in the week, Fircrest students did their part to make their new classmates feel extra special. They made “welcoming hands” art projects which all of the Crestline kids got as a special gift on Thursday morning.
Elsewhere, Crestline kindergartners started their day at Mill Plain Elementary, 1st graders were moved to Ellsworth Elementary, 2nd graders to Columbia Valley, and 3rd graders went to Riverview.
“They’re so excited to have these kids here. They’re doing things like putting up welcome posters, opening the doors early and inviting them to come in and get acclimated,” said Carol Fenstermacher, Dir. Of Community Relations for the Evergreen School District.
It's a big change for all of the kids, but district officials said it will also be a great opportunity for them to make new friends.
“As they move up through the system and go into middle school and high school, they're going to recognize the kids they spent part of the school year with,” Fenstermacher said. “In a bad situation, I think this is the best we could do and I think it's going to be very positive for the kids.”
The community was also rallying to help in many ways. Several fundraisers were set up to replace school supplies burned in the fire. Organizers included everyone from a stay-at-home mom pulling together a book drive, a local photographer donating proceeds from photo shoots, a T-shirt maker and a major burger chain raising money for new equipment.
Meanwhile, investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the Crestline fire. The blaze broke out around 3:17 a.m. Sunday and destroyed the school.
A total of 498 students were displaced by the fire, along with their teachers and other staff members.
Background: Fire destroyed Crestline school