OPINION: Let The Smoke Clear

BVSD must rethink how quickly students return to classes



AP Photo/Thomas Peipert

Ryleigh Selby

“BVSD schools to reopen Wednesday, following Marshall Fires.” An email with this subject line hit the inbox of every BVSD family at 5:00 P.M. on Sunday. Just three days after Louisville and Superior students evacuated their homes and searched the news for any updates on if their houses were still standing or reduced to embers, they were told to return to regular learning the following Wednesday.

Countless of my classmates, my neighbors, and my friends lost everything they own in these horrific fires. Regaining a sense of normalcy by returning to school may seem like a good thing in some aspects, but considering the recent events, “normal” is impossible. 

First, there are the people who have lost their homes. Their clothes, important personal documents, treasured belongings, family photos, and countless other material possessions have been turned to ash, let alone their school supplies. What teenager would think to grab their math textbook, science notebook, backpack, or chrome book when they are rushing to save the items that are most important to them? When evacuating, they weren’t concerned about grabbing the notes for their history exam after winter break. These homeless students have literally no school supplies, yet they are expected to resume their studies? 

Many Monarch staff and faculty lost their homes, as well, and demanding them to immediately return to work after such tragic losses is beyond insensible. They have no homes to return to, and even those that do may not be able to for days or even weeks. 

Another problem is transportation. Many Superior residents, myself included, have had to walk into their neighborhoods just to gather food and clothes to bring to wherever they are staying. Whether in hotels or with friends and family, nearly everyone in Louisville and Superior is remote and far from Monarch. 

Additionally, many students who lost their homes also lost their cars. Asking parents to bring their kids to and from school while they are busy communicating with insurance companies and dealing with other administrative issues is ridiculous. Public transportation is also not an option because buses are not running due to the fires, and school buses are already few and far between. 

Other basic needs for students haven’t been met yet. Even once we were allowed to return to our homes, there was no heat or drinkable water. The snow we received on Friday was much needed, but it is now leaving people living in 30 and 40 degree temperatures. A warm shower isn’t an option. 

Many of my friends have been living in the same clothes and/ or have not had a shower in five days. How can they be expected to return to school and regular learning when they are currently living without basic hygiene materials? Houses that were salvaged are also without wifi and internet, so completing any assigned homework is not an option. 

No matter how directly or indirectly impacted people were by the Marshall fires, everyone was affected. We, as a community, are entirely without the physical resources to return to school. But beyond the physical is the mental and emotional toll that this event has taken on us. This tragedy brings layers upon layers of psychological trauma that must be worked through. Putting students back in school and returning them to the stress of tests and schoolwork will only dig the knife deeper. 

Interestingly enough, the senior class at Monarch created a plan to use the school as a donation center and a location for the community of students to gather. Specific clubs were going to provide games and movies as entertainment, offering Monarch High School as a place of familiarity for those living in extreme uncertainty. 

However, such a plan was denied by the administration because the school grounds were deemed “inaccessible.”

So, how come these “inaccessible” school grounds are only being made accessible for classes, not for helping people who are now homeless? The superintendent says in his own email that the school is also without clean water, natural gas, requires air scrubbing, and may contain debris on its grounds that are covered by snow. This doesn’t sound like a very safe and inviting learning environment to me. 

The solution for this problem is incredibly simple: delay our return to learning. 

Whether that is until next Monday or farther down the line, it is currently impossible for students to physically and mentally continue their classes.

Turn our previously “inaccessible” high school into what the seniors proposed days ago: a place where people can donate and take the donations they need. Where students can gather somewhere familiar and see their friends without the stress of schoolwork. Where we can love each other and support each other because that is what’s needed right now.

BVSD administrators and School Board, I am calling on you to get your priorities in order and address the real needs of your students and staff. They do not need to learn algebra equations or how to format an essay right now. 

They need community, so be the ones to give it to them. 


Many students have expressed similar concerns to those described above. If you would like to send your concerns directly to the district, you can email the members of the BVSD Board of Education. Their emails are listed below. 


Kathy Gebhardt

Board of Education President

[email protected]


Lisa Sweeney-Miran

Board of Education Vice-President

[email protected]


Nicole Rajpal

Board of Education Treasurer

[email protected]


Stacey Zis

Board of Education Member

[email protected]


Beth Niznik

Board of Education Member

[email protected]


Kitty Sargent

Board of Education Member

[email protected]


Richard Garcia

Board of Education Member

[email protected]