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New Guidelines for School Districts Making Decisions About Student Activities During Periods of Poor Air Quality

June 12, 2019

During the first week of June, the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) released an air quality guidance template for local school districts to assist in making decisions about school activities during periods of poor air quality, including episodes involving wildfire smoke, high ozone levels, Spare The Air days, etc.

These guidelines are advisory (not mandatory), and are intended to help local school districts decide when outdoor activities should be curtailed, etc. The guidelines can be downloaded at:

http://www.capcoa.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2019/06/Air-Quality-Guidance-Template-for-Schools-Updated-5.13.2019.pdf

According to CAPCOA:

  1. These guidelines are based on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and Centers for Disease Control’s Air Quality and Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools and Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials. The guidelines are designed to assist in your decision-making process.
  2. Modify the template and chart as needed after consultation with your local county office of education, local school districts, local air district, and local public health experts to determine which air quality monitoring methodology, such as Air Quality Index, total emissions concentration, or other air district-recommended method best applies in your school district.
  3. This template and chart are not intended to supersede existing guidelines and policies developed by local authorities, including the school districts or air districts.
  4. These guidelines are intended to assist school districts in making decisions when air quality is poor. School closure and event cancellation is ultimately a school district-by-school district decision based on local conditions.
  5. The impact of smoke depends on the sensitivity of the person and the length of exposure, as outlined in the sample chart below. Children with respiratory or heart conditions are vulnerable to poor air quality and may require extra precautions. School districts should advise parents to consult with their family health care provider.

Using the Guidelines:

  1. School districts will need to monitor local air quality conditions using air quality tracking tools recommended by their local air district. One example of such a tool is U.S. EPA’s air quality index (AQI) available at AirNow.gov. However, because other air quality tracking methodologies may be used in your jurisdiction, it is highly recommended to contact your local air district for advice on the most appropriate tools to use for your region.
  2. School districts should make decisions about school activities and closures based on air quality measurements and local conditions, such as the availability and quality of school building air filtration and direct observation of onsite indoor/outdoor air quality.
  3. School districts may wish to consult with their local air district regarding outdoor air and their local public health official regarding indoor air before making a final determination.
  4. School districts should report any school closures to their County Office of Education for media notification as well as announce closures to families using normal school closure procedures.
 

The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association is a non-profit association of the air pollution control officers from all 35 local air quality agencies throughout California. CAPCOA was formed in 1976 to promote clean air and to provide a forum for sharing knowledge, experience, and information among the air quality regulatory agencies around the state.

Source: California Air Pollution Control Officers Association



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