Paradise students return back to school for 1st time since Camp Fire

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PARADISE (CNN) — At Paradise school campuses, families excitedly poured into classrooms for the first day of school. 

“Our kids — oh my gosh, it’s amazing to see them go back to school today. Oh, it’s so it’s amazing,” said mother Valvena Hedrick.

It was a reunion for many children, staff and parents alike.

For Jeff Marcus, the former longtime principal came out of retirement for this very moment.

“They will not let the Camp Fire define who they are. To dictate their future,” Marcus said. “They are returning here to pursue their hopes and dreams and they are the strongest, most resilient, most passionate, committed group of young people I have worked with in 40 years.”

Paradise High School is now combined into two schools with grades 7-12.

As far as a student population estimate, the district isn’t quite sure yet, given how many times families have moved over the last nine months.

“It feels good. Feels like we’re back home again,” said mother Carmen Baca Figland. 

The first day of class can simply be described as powerful, but bittersweet, reminding residents of what once was — but also reinforcing hope to rebuild.

“We all have different jobs now. Different jobs, different homes. But we’re going to try and keep them in the same school. That’s one good thing,” Figland said. 

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