‘Amazing and heartwarming’: Almira community celebrates in-person learning after fire destroys school

ALMIRA, Wash. — Students are back in class again after a fire destroyed their school a few weeks ago. To help the community heal, they knew this would be an important milestone for everyone.

“Driving in today, it was kind of like the first day of school again,” said Kelsey Hoppe, the Principal at Almira’s Elementary and Middle School.

She felt first-day jitters trying to make sure everything was in place for the 137 students coming back to class. They were learning online since the fire, but in-person learning was always the goal.

Hoppe was “nervous to see how it’s all going to go but just excited that they are back in person.”

Since the fire destroyed the school, they had to get creative to make this work. The kids are learning in three different locations. Some are at the community church. Others are at the community center. The older kids are sharing classrooms in Coulee City. No matter the obstacles, Hoppe did what she could to help the kids recover from the loss.

“That’s a lot of trauma for them to experience, especially with the last few years that we’ve had. They just needed to have their home back, their second home and have their teachers back,” she said.

She’s also overcome with gratitude for all the support they’ve received. People donated school supplies and helped set up the classrooms. They’re moving forward from the flames — a community strong as warriors.

“It’s been absolutely amazing and heartwarming, and we’re just excited to be back in person and moving forward and building another strong school,” Hoppe said.

Her next goal is to create portable classrooms in Almira so everyone can learn in the same location.

What caused the fire at the school is still under investigation.

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