As soon as 11-year-old Elle Yazdani stepped off a school bus after being snowed in at an outdoor science camp in the mountains, her mom was there with a big hug and her favorite Chick-fil-A meal.
The sixth-grader burst into tears. She was one of some 600 Irvine Unified students that were among the last school groups in Orange County to arrive late Monday night from camps in the San Bernardino Mountains, where the recent heavy snow storms have led to road closures and fears from locals about dwindling food and other supplies.
“All the kids were so happy to see their parents,” Parrisa Yazdani, Elle’s mother, said Tuesday.
Originally expected home last Friday, the Irvine students – along with kids from the Fullerton, Garden Grove and Centralia school districts in Orange County – couldn’t return until Monday afternoon, when the California Highway Patrol escorted buses down the winding mountain roads. Also returning Monday from outdoor science camp was a group of 51 students and two teachers from Rowland Elementary in the San Gabriel Valley.
On Monday, San Bernardino County declared a local emergency in hopes of securing help to clear snow from mountain highways and neighborhood streets. CHP and Caltrans officials prioritized clearing the roads to get the students down the mountains, district officials said.
Some of the districts, including Garden Grove Unified and Fullerton, had bus drivers spend the night at local motels near the base of the mountain Sunday night so they could drive up as soon as it was allowed Monday.
The feat to get kids back took coordination not only between districts and various agencies, but also with bus companies and between districts. Centralia Elementary School District, for example, contracted with Anaheim Elementary District to transport its 72 sixth-graders back from the Emerald Cove Outdoor Science Institute camp to G.B. Miller Elementary in La Palma, said Superintendent Norma Martinez.
In some districts, students were able able to bring back all their belongings with them. Others will have to wait.
“In the interest of getting students home as safely and quickly as possible, they brought essentials home and then luggage will be delivered as soon as possible by camp staff to each school site,” said Annie Brown, spokeswoman for Irvine Unified.
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