Local schools have different responses to serious air quality issues

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on November 15, 2018

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UPDATE: Late Thursday evening MPCSD Superintendent Eric Burmeister issued a statement saying schools would be closed on Friday. He posted a comment on this post; you can read his statement by clicking on “comments.”

On Friday morning, the San Mateo County Office of Education reports that in addition to Menlo Park City Schools, Las Lomitas Elementary School District and Ravenswood School District will be closed on Nov. 16. Schools in the Portola Valley and Woodside school districts will be open.

As of this writing, the air quality index in Menlo Park (and presumably adjacent communities) is a “very unhealthy” 218. So what does that mean? Short story: active exercisers and people who work vigoursly outdoors should not do those things tomorrow.

Classes at Menlo-Atherton High School are canceled Friday (Nov. 16) with this statement issued by Sequoia Union High Schools Superintendent Mary Streshly, “Given the current and ongoing air conditions, we feel this is the best decision for the health and safety of our school community.”

Friday’s football game has been moved south to 4:00 pm on Saturday at Salinas High School.

Meanwhile, the Menlo Park City Schools will be open on Fridays. Wrote Superintendent Eric Burmeister in a letter to parents/guardians: “While the air quality is bad, it is no more dangerous for children to be at school than to be any other place. The County Health Department does not recommend closing schools at this time as long as we are following the Shelter in Place guidelines. I firmly believe children are safer in school supervised than at home unsupervised. You may choose to keep your children at home; please report their absence to your school site and it will be an excused absence.”

The Las Lomitas Elementary School District has no notice/update on its website.

Adjacent Stanford University issued a number of alerts to its employees on Thursday that said, among other things: “The university has received questions today about the use of masks. As Environmental Health & Safety has shared in previous guidance, masks have limited effectiveness and are not recommended for healthy individuals. Often, people wear respirator masks incorrectly or too loosely. In addition, using respirator masks can make it harder to breathe, which may worsen existing medical conditions.

“The best guidance is to limit outdoor exposure and to avoid strenuous outdoor activity. (Typically, this means outdoor activity that causes you to breathe hard, or activity you’ll be doing intermittently for several hours that makes you breathe slightly harder than normal. Consider the difference between a short bike ride to class and a prolonged vigorous run.)”

Photo of hazy sun taken by Dennis Nugent late Thursday afternoon (c) 2018

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Patrick November 15, 2018 at 10:38 pm

MPCSD is closed tomorrow as well, this update was sent at 8:15pm:

Dear Parents/Guardians,

It is with disappointment that I share with you that all MPCSD schools will be closed tomorrow, November 16, due to the air quality. As you may have heard, Sequoia Union High School District has closed its schools, as have most of the feeder districts.

The air quality is worsening and closures throughout the Bay Area are impacting my ability to ensure that we can fully staff and support students safely at school on Friday.

It is likely that the air quality will remain poor for many days. It will be my goal to work hard to ensure that we can open schools on Monday and Tuesday if at all possible, even if the Air Quality Index stays high. Unfortunately, I think poor air quality will remain a challenge as fires continue to burn.

Educating your children in a safe and supportive environment is my number one priority. Friday may have gotten the best of us, but we’ll continue working to keep schools open except in the most extreme conditions.

I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. I do not make this decision lightly.

Sincerely,
Erik Burmeister

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