By Khalida Sarwari
Unhealthy conditions caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise have forced a number of local schools around the Bay Area to move students indoors or cancel outdoor activities this week.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has extended an air quality alert for the Bay Area through Friday, advising the public to avoid outdoor activity as much as possible and to keep windows and doors closed indoors. While most schools remain open, many have made changes under the circumstances.
With smoky skies projected to last through the week, the restrictions at many of the schools will likely remain in place through Friday. School officials said they’ll be monitoring the air conditions and revising their procedures accordingly.
The Sunnyvale School District has limited its outdoor activities and is moving both regular and after school activities to indoor spaces at some of its campuses, according to district spokeswoman Alia Wilson. She said that recess and lunch have also been moved to indoors.
Fremont Union High School District spokeswoman Rachel Zlotziver said sporting events were canceled and all physical education classes were moved indoors. As a further precaution, teachers and staff have opened up their classrooms and other indoor spaces to students during lunchtime and breaks. “We will continue to carefully monitor conditions for tomorrow and the remainder of the week so that we can determine if we need to cancel additional games and continue the limitations on outdoor activities,” she said.
Leslie Mains, chief information and community engagement officer at the Cupertino Union School District, suggested that school administrators have taken sweeping measures to protect students’ wellbeing amid the unhealthy air. Recess, lunch and PE have been moved to indoors and for the time being, outdoor field trips, assemblies, disaster drills and after school sports and activities are being put on hold or postponed. This afternoon’s volleyball practice was canceled and a planned field trip to Sanborn County Park will have to be rescheduled, she said.
The restrictions have been in place since late last week, she said.
“We’re monitoring our students and staff that have respiratory issues,” she said. “We’re keeping an eye on them to make sure that they’re OK.”
In the East Bay, the Alameda County Office of Education sent out an advisory this morning denoting that while schools remain open, recess, lunch and PE are being offered indoors and after school activities are either being limited or canceled.
Fremont Unified School District’s Brian Killgore said schools in the district initially limited students’ outdoor activities and kept those with asthma and other respiratory issues indoors, but that with the air quality becoming increasingly worse, schools moved to a strictly indoor schedule and canceled all outdoor after-school sports and activities.
“We will re-evaluate in the morning and move on from there,” Killgore said. “We have parent-teacher conferences this week so most schools have early dismissal which is helpful.”
The Dublin Union School District also moved its recess, lunch, PE and breaks indoors at its school sites. The district recommended keeping windows and doors closed.
“Anything in the environment could change it,” said Mains. “If we had rain it may or may not create some sort of reprieve, but at this point… the projection is that it’s going to be bad all week.”