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Resources from CDE

The following resources from the California Department of Education (CDE) address frequently asked questions related to emergency response and recovery.

Guidance to Consider When Reopening a School after a Fire Disaster

As schools affected by the wildfires prepare to reopen in the coming days and weeks, we know that all local educational agencies (LEAs) are concerned with protecting the health and safety of their students. Efforts to restore normal school operations as much as possible are critical to the recovery of students, families, and communities. The decision about when to reopen schools is an important one.

There are no state laws or regulations specifying the steps needed in order to reopen a school following a fire. The CDE advises all LEAs with school sites located within a burn zone or evacuation area to do their due diligence in assessing and determining the appropriate mitigation measures on each school site. In general, LEAs should ensure that any potential interior smoke or ash from each school site has been cleared. Basic cleaning measures may be appropriate for some sites, such as replacement of air filters. Other sites may need professional remediation, such as removal and disposal of outdoor accumulated soot/ash. Employees should not touch any ash/contaminated material. LEAs should consult with legal counsel to ensure contracts for assessment and remediation work are properly let.

Schools not physically damaged by fire need to be evaluated to ensure that the buildings and grounds are safe and healthy prior to students returning. Areas to assess include:

  • Smoke damage clean-up
  • Fire retardant clean-up
  • Soot and ash clean-up
  • Stored food damage disposal
  • Debris and hazardous materials/waste disposal
  • Damaged tree removal, preparing for rains
  • Psychological impacts to returning students and staff
  • Working utilities (sewer, water, electricity, cable, phone, Internet, etc.)

In general, buildings otherwise safe for re-occupancy should be cleaned using water and a mild cleaner and HEPA filtered vacuums. Depending on the scope and complexity of the clean-up effort and the availability of staff, an LEA may need to consider a professional restoration contractor.

The links below contain more resources for districts to consider when preparing a school for occupancy:

Wildfire Smoke - A Guide for Public Health Officials External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) is designed to help local public health officials prepare for smoke events, take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health.

If ash or other debris needs to be discarded, contact the local waste management provider or county health official.

CDE’s Nutrition Services Division recommends that School Food Authorities who closed down or sustained damage to their food facilities (i.e., cafeterias or kitchens) due to the fires contact their Local Environmental Health Department (LEHD) to determine if there are procedures that they should follow before reopening. A list of the LEHDs by county is available at EH Department Websites External link opens in new window or tab..

It is critically important to track the work effort and other costs for any insurance or other funding claims, including relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For technical assistance relating to preparing school sites to reopen, contact Diane Waters at 916-327-2884 or

Displaced Students and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

Due to the large geographic impact of the wildfires on family dwellings, many students may now be considered homeless, if even for a temporary basis. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act) (42 U.S.C. § 11431-11435) is federal legislation that ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youths experiencing homelessness.

In regards to meals, if a student becomes homeless, even temporarily, due to wildfires or another state/federally declared natural disaster, a verbal confirmation of homelessness from a student, or the student’s family, is all that is required for a student to receive free mails.

Subsequently, program operators will work backwards in obtaining the homeless documentation with the Homeless Liaison. After receiving a verbal confirmation of a student’s homelessness, program operators should assure the family that their child is eligible for free meals for the remainder of the school year, and the first 30 operating days of the following year, and then subsequently obtain the necessary documentation for the homeless designation: the school registration form (if applicable) and documentation from the Homeless Liaison.

For further assistance on meal eligibility, contact the School Nutrition Programs Unit at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to be directed to a program specialist.

The CDE’s Homeless Education web page provides information and resources for homeless children and youths and their right to enroll, attend, participate fully, and succeed in school. For technical assistance relating to the McKinney-Vento Act, contact Leanne Wheeler at 866-856-8214 or

Special Education and the Provision of Services for Students with Disabilities

In the event of a school closure due to a disaster, schools should consider ways of ensuring that continuing education activities (i.e., services provided during a school closure) are accessible to students with disabilities when they are provided to the general education population. The U.S. Department of Education provides information regarding the requirement of LEAs to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities:

  • If an LEA closes its schools because the functioning or delivery of educational services is disrupted, and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then an LEA would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time. Once school resumes, the LEA must make every effort to provide special education and related services to the child in accordance with the child’s individualized education program (IEP) as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or, for students entitled to FAPE under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), consistent with a plan developed to meet the requirements of Section 504.
  • If a school cannot provide services in accordance with a student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, the student’s IEP Team or appropriate personnel responsible under Section 504, determines which services can be provided to appropriately meet the student’s needs.
  • Students with IEPs who are displaced and seeking services in another district must receive FAPE through the provision of services comparable to those described in the child’s IEP from the previous public agency until, in the case of an in-State transfer, the new school district implements an IEP for the student.

For more information, refer to the Non-Regulatory Guidance on Flexibility and Waivers for Grantees and Program Participants Impacted by Federally Declared Disasters External link opens in new window or tab. (DOCX).

For technical assistance relating to the provision of services for students with disabilities, contact Monica Pecarovich at 916-327-3535 or

Use of U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods during a State and Federally Declared Disaster

Disaster relief organizations may designate schools as congregate feeding sites or request that schools provide their U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods to other feeding sites. USDA Foods can be released on request to recognized disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross or the Office of Emergency Services (OES). Information regarding USDA Foods usage, reporting, and claiming procedures during a disaster can be found in Management Bulletin 02-401.

The Disaster Feeding Guidance for School Food Service using USDA Foods can be downloaded from the CDE Food Distribution Guidance, Manuals, and Resources web page.

Additional information on providing meals to children and food to affected communities during State or federally declared disasters is available on the Nutrition Services Division’s Disaster Relief Guidelines Web page.

For questions relating to the use of USDA Foods in disaster feeding, please e-mail

Average Daily Attendance Credit During Periods of Emergency

State law allows local educational agencies (LEAs) to apply for a waiver to hold them harmless from the loss of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding based on attendance and state instructional time penalties when they are forced to close schools or when schools remain open but attendance is reduced due to emergency conditions. Form J-13A is used by LEAs to request approval for attendance and instructional time credit in the event of an emergency that falls within the parameters of EC sections 41422 and 46392 and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 428.

Approval of school closures and material decreases in attendance may be requested by submitting a Form J-13A. For more guidance on the J-13A submittal and approval process, see the CDE’s Form J-13A web page.

For questions regarding Form J-13A waivers for instructional time and attendance losses, please email or call 916-324-4541.

Attendance Relief Credit for Expanded Learning Programs

California Education Code allows program attendance credit when expanded learning programs cannot operate due to natural disaster, civil unrest, or imminent danger.

To receive attendance credit, programs must complete and submit the Expanded Learning Division’s Attendance Relief Request form. The forms are due twice a year.

  • For closures between January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020—Forms are due July 31, 2020.
  • For closures between July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020—Forms are due January 31, 2021.

The Attendance Relief Request form can be found on the California Department of Education’s Reporting and Forms (PDF) web page.

For questions regarding attendance relief credit for expanded learning programs, contact your Fiscal Analyst or Regional Consultant.

Early Education Programs Contracted through CDE

The Early Education and Support Division (EESD) applauds the tremendous effort agencies have made in the many counties in California during this emergency to attempt to continue quality child development services to families and children. However, the extreme nature of these fires have rendered affected centers, preschools, and providers unable to offer services. In these instances, the EESD refers contractors to Management Bulletin 10-09 for specific guidance and funding direction due to circumstances beyond the control of the contractor.

If you operate a licensed facility, please report any fires on the premises to the California Department of Social Services pursuant to the California Code of Regulations, Title 22 sections 101212(d) External link opens in new window or tab. and 102416.2(c) External link opens in new window or tab.. All licensed facilities should also follow their disaster plans on file pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 1596.95(f) External link opens in new window or tab..

If you have not already been in contact with your field consultant, please contact them as soon as possible if your agency was impacted by the fires.

For questions regarding reduced days of operation or attendance for child care and development programs, contact Lisa Velarde at 916-324-6164 or or Erica Otiono at 916-319-0338 or

Mental Health Services

The CDE’s Mental Health Resources Web page includes resources for psychological and mental health issues, including coping with tragedy, crisis intervention and prevention, school psychology, and suicide prevention. Additional resources include:

The Disaster Distress Helpline External link opens in new window or tab. from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a--year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) External link opens in new window or tab. is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Free YMHFA training is available through the California Department of Education; contact for more information.

National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), California External link opens in new window or tab.
NAMI California is a grassroots organization of families and individuals whose lives have been affected by serious mental illness. They advocate for lives of quality and respect, without discrimination and stigma, for all our constituents.

National Traumatic Stress Network External link opens in new window or tab.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network was established to improve access to care, treatment, and services for traumatized children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events. Their Web resources for Wildfires External link opens in new window or tab. include readiness, response, and recovery topics.

Caring for Kids After Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) from New York University.

For questions regarding mental health services for children and youths, contact Monica Nepomuceno at 916-323-2212 or, or Hilva Chan at 916-319-0194 or

Comprehensive School Safety Plans

These catastrophic events remind us that school safety planning and emergency preparedness are among educators’ most critical responsibilities. It is incumbent upon counties, districts, and schools to ensure that comprehensive school safety plans are reviewed, updated, and approved per Education Code sections 32282-32289 External link opens in new window or tab.. We urge you to review and practice emergency operations plans and communication procedures regularly, in advance of emergencies.

The CDE is committed to helping you and your schools become as prepared as possible and to maintain safe and secure school environments year-round. The CDE’s Safe Schools Planning Web page provides information to help schools identify elements and resources important in improving school climate and safety. The Cal OES Web page For Schools & Educators External link opens in new window or tab. also provides school planning and geographically-based preparedness resources.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students, Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center, together with partnering agencies, provides a Guide to Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

For technical assistance relating to School Safety Plans, contact Nancy Zarenda at

Questions:   Emergency Services Team |
Last Reviewed: Monday, January 30, 2023