SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- "We are back, we are home," that's what students at Riebli elementary in Santa Rosa chanted as they returned to their school today. The structure was not damaged by the fires that swept Sonoma County last October, but the school suffered a lot of smoke damage.
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There were signs with farewell messages for Reibli students. Nearly 500 of them had been transferred to two local elementary schools immediately after the destructive fires in Sonoma county. Now it was safe to return to their beloved school.
"We lost our house right there in the neighborhood, so this is Riebli, this is what it's all about, so exciting just to be back here," said parent Haley Skerrett as she waited for her child to arrive.
The damage from the smoke and the toxic air around the school, made conditions unsafe. Today, air monitors are still in place.
Several local law enforcement agencies outdid themselves today, providing a grand escort as parents greeted the children, some in tears, others with great pride.
"I was thinking happy that everybody is happy to be back and feeling a little more like a part of Riebli," siad 4th grader Everett Johnson
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Everett Johnson and his family lost their home in the Mark West Springs neighborhood.
This year, they say, Christmas will be even more meaningful.
"Everything means more you lose a house, you're family means more, school," said parent Ken Johnson who is an officer with the Winsor Police Department.
The school officially reopens on January 8, it was important for these students and their families to make the transition now before the holidays.
" We also want parents and children to see that the school is here, it's strong, it's ready to go," said the principal of the school, Patty Dineen.
"This was a hard year and we're home, we're home," said heather Payne a mother of a 6th grader.
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Students return to Riebli Elementary after North Bay fires