March 16 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on Friday that California schools harmed by devastating wildfires in October will receive $2 million to help with recovery.
DeVos said the new federal aid to the California Department of Education will fund portable classrooms, substitute teachers, mental health services, transportation for displaced students and substitute bus drivers.
“These resources will help ensure students, teachers and staff have access to the services they need as they continue to recover,” DeVos said.
The aid, called Project SERV, can be used to fix problems caused by the fires.
“Many of our districts suffered widespread school closures, massive displacement of students and staff, and devastating losses from these horrific fires,” California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. “These funds will assist in the ongoing recovery for these schools and help provide a continued sense of safety and security.”
The wildfires burned more than 170,000 acres in California in October, destroying at least 3,500 homes and killing more than 40 people. Gov. Jerry Brown estimated damage from the fires, some in the region’s wine country, could ultimately cost tens of billions of dollars.
More fires threatened the state in December, including the 270,500-acre Thomas Fire that became the largest wildfire in modern California history.
Two people, including a Cal Fire engineer, were killed in the blazes and the Thomas Fire destroyed 1,026 structures, including 756 homes.
The fires left behind deteriorated slopes that resulted in mudslides when heavy rains hit in January, which killed at least 13 people.