Southern California’s weather events delayed the return trip of hundreds of Orange County students participating in outdoor science camps in the mountains.

At least two Orange County school districts have students spending extra time at their days-long science camp due to inclement weather while parents at a third district were expecting the arrival of their children late Friday, Feb. 24.

Nearly 500 students from Irvine Unified School District’s Cadence Park, Oak Creek and Stone Creek schools were supposed to return Friday but will have to remain at “Camp Pail” in Running Springs until this weekend when driving conditions are expected to improve, a district spokeswoman said.

Another 120 students from Turtle Rock Elementary will stay put at a camp in Crestline.

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“We continue to collaborate with camp staff, local fire departments and the CHP to help ensure our students are safe and well cared for,” said Irvine Unified spokeswoman Annie Brown.

In the Centralia Elementary School District, 72 students are at the Emerald Cove Outdoor Science Institute Camp with two of the school’s teachers and camp staff, Superintendent Norma Martinez said in an email. They will likely be staying until Sunday.

“As far as being ‘snowed in,’ being in a camp, surrounded by classmates, trained staff and caring teachers is the best way to ride out the storm,” Martinez said.

At Saddleback Valley Unified, 96 students and adults tried to leave a day early, Thursday, but large buses were no longer allowed up the mountains.

By Friday morning, the district had four smaller 20-person vehicles “to drive up the mountain and pick up students and staff,” district spokeswoman Wendie Hauschild said.

“It took two round trips, but we were able to get everyone safely down the mountain and into the larger buses,” said Hauschild. “The larger buses are due to arrive at their school this evening (Feb. 24).”

At the Pali Institute Outdoor Education Center, staff has been working with the schools’ teachers to offer more games and activities and some snow time outside, said Ben Waterhouse, the center’s assistant director.

”The main goal is to make sure the kids are safe,” he said.

“Some of the kids today wrote a bunch of notes and hung them around our dining hall, expressing things like ‘stay positive’ and ‘smile today’,” Waterhouse said. “This is one of those events that all of us will look back on 10 years from now and think this was a cool opportunity.”

Alli West, an Irvine resident whose sixth-grader, Fletcher, is at Camp Pali, said she suspects her son is having a grand time.

“I would say most of the kids are so happy to still be there, and probably many of the adults are dying to pick them up,” West said. “My kid is probably in hog heaven.”

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