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Air Quality Updates: November 15-20

November 18 Update

At this time, Santa Clara Unified will have all schools open Monday and Tuesday as scheduled. Students will continue to have indoor recess, lunch, physical education, and afterschool sports activities due to air quality.

November 16 Update #3

The Santa Clara County Office of Education held a press conference at 11:30 a.m. today. Watch the press conference here (begins at minute 54:00).

November 16 Update #2

We know you are concerned about the current air quality, and we too share your concern. We want to keep you informed on the current status of school closures in Santa Clara County.

We have monitored the air quality index throughout the evening. We will continue to monitor and assess these numbers throughout the day. We continue to consult with and consider the guidance from the Public Health Department.

While some schools will close, Santa Clara Unified School District will remain open.

We are aware that many local colleges, universities and private schools have elected to close their doors. Some local public school districts have decided to close. We are also mindful that schools provide necessary shelter and food. We closely monitor the conditions with our schools and schools offer a safer place for children.  Conditions within our county vary from district to district. As a result, some districts will remain open.

Please be aware that while some school doors will remain open, we ask that families and schools follow medical and environmental advice, especially if your child suffers from respiratory or heart-related issues, or if there is a concern or hardship in bringing your child to school. The schools who remain open are giving parents a choice whether to send their child to school or to keep their children at home. We are staying open for parents who cannot do otherwise.  Parents are the best judge of their individual child’s needs, we understand and support that parents are in the best position to make decision about their individual child, should they decide to keep their child at home the absence will be excused.

Whether you are at home at or at school we recommend that you follow environmental advice provided by AirNow.gov located here: https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqibasics.pmhilevels

For families in communities where there are school closures, we make the following recommendations:

  • Stay indoors in an area with filtered air. Particle pollution can get indoors, so consider purchasing an air cleaner if you live in an area with high levels of particle pollution.
    • Air cleaners that remove particles include high-efficiency mechanical filters and electronic air cleaners, such as electrostatic precipitators. Avoid using an air cleaner that works by generating ozone, which will increase the pollution in your home.
    • If you do not have air cleaners in your home, try to go somewhere that does have air filtration. This could, for example, be a friend’s home, if it has air filtration.
  • Please keep your families indoors and limit outdoor and or strenuous activity.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Watch your child for symptoms including coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness. Even children who do not have asthma can experience these symptoms.
  • If symptoms occur, your child might need to take a break, do a less intense activity, stop all activity, go indoors, or use quick-relief medicine as prescribed. If symptoms don’t improve, get medical help.

For families in communities where schools have elected to remain open, we make the following recommendations:

  • Limit and relocate outdoor activities, including physical education, lunch, and other break times.
  • Watch students for symptoms including coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness. Even students who do not have asthma can experience these symptoms.
  • If symptoms occur, students might need to take a break, do a less intense activity, stop all activity, go indoors, or use quick-relief medicine as prescribed. If symptoms don’t improve, get medical help.
  • You thank you for your concern, which we share. However, we must remain a support for all families within Santa Clara County. We share your desire to keep all children safe, and we will inform you when our current assessment changes.

Most current recommendations from the County of Santa Clara Public Health:

Avoid Breathing Wildfire Smoke - HEALTH ADVISORY

November 9, 2018

Lea el Aviso de Salud en Español

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is advising residents to take precautions due to visible smoke in the air. Wildfires in California are causing air pollution throughout the Bay Area.

If you smell smoke, protect your health by avoiding exposure. If possible, stay inside with windows and doors closed until smoke levels subside. Set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside. Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a dry scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can trigger wheezing in those who suffer from respiratory conditions, such as asthma or emphysema/COPD. It is recommended that parents and school administrators check air quality readings before allowing children to practice outdoor sports while air quality is unhealthy.

Elderly persons, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.

When air quality is Yellow, or Moderate, air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

Due to the active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality could be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly. Check the latest air quality data for your area by searching your location at airnow.gov.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Winter Spare the Air Alert asking residents to avoid adding additional air pollution activities such as lawn mowing, leaf blowing, driving, and barbecuing. Burning wood, firelogs, pellets, or any other solid fuels in your fireplace, woodstove, or other wood-burning device is illegal during a Winter Spare the Air Alert.

Residents may have questions about using masks to help with protection from wildfire smoke. The most important thing you can do is to stay indoors as much as possible when you smell or see smoke in the air. If you work outdoors or prolonged outdoor activity is unavoidable, and there is heavy smoke, certain masks (for example, properly fitted N-95 masks) can protect against harmful exposure. Masks such as the N-95 are not effective for untrained users and may be more harmful than helpful for people with lung or heart conditions. Employees should work with their employers for direction on when/how to use N-95 masks. Bandanas and typical surgical masks DO NOT protect against wildfire smoke particles.

More Information:

 

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Dewan, Ph.D., County Superintendent of Schools 

Stanley Rose III, Ed.D., Superintendent, Santa Clara Unified School District

 

November 16 Update #1

Dear Families,

The safety and security of our students is of the utmost importance, and it is our desire that students throughout the county have a safe place and refuge from the current air quality. Students are safer and better served indoors within our schools, childcare homes and centers, and preschools.

At this time, schools in Santa Clara County are not closing. The SCCOE is providing this guidance after consultation with Santa Clara County School Districts, and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

We will be monitoring air quality through www.airnow.gov and informing schools and after-school programs of the guidelines and recommend that families also stay informed, and be mindful of health concerns. If you or your child is particularly susceptible to respiratory or heart trouble, please follow medical guidelines first.

Due to the unhealthy air quality, the following recommendations have been made:

  • Stay indoors and reschedule, cancel or relocate to an indoors facilities any previously planned or scheduled outdoor activities.
  • Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

We are asking that outdoor and strenuous activity be limited.

Please use precautions as recommended by Santa Clara County Public Health.

The Environmental Protection Agency makes the following recommendations for outdoor activity.

Following the recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration, N-95 respirators are not recommended for use for children as they may not fit properly. 

Why aren't schools distributing air masks to students?

Schools have been advised by public health officials that the only mask that can safely protect from particulate matter such as that found in wildfire smoke is an N95 respirator. However, these masks are meant to be worn by those with occupational exposure and are not designed for children. Also, without having had a "fit test" while wearing this mask, individual users cannot be sure that it fits well enough to provide the expected protection.

Does my child have to go to school?

If parents disagree with their district's decision, they may choose to keep their children at home. Ultimately, parents know what is best for their child based on his or her health needs.

If I keep my child home because of health concerns, will the absence be excused?

This is a district-by-district decision. In Santa Clara Unified, for an absence to be considered excused, please see SCUSD Administrative Regulation 5113.

Additional Resources:


Sincerely,

Mary Ann Dewan, Ph.D., County Superintendent of Schools 

Stanley Rose III, Ed.D., Superintendent, Santa Clara Unified School District

 

November 15 Update

Based on the air quality, Santa Clara Unified School District schools will move all outdoor activities inside or cancel them through the rest of the week.

Each day, we receive the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s air quality forecast and use their Air Quality Index (AQI), Santa Clara County Public Health Department advisories, and Breathe California recommendations for schools to inform our schools of any changes that need to be made to their daily routines. These changes may affect physical education, athletics, and recess periods.

Winds can change quickly, changing air quality in a short time, and we are prepared to continue to adjust our activities accordingly. We will issue a follow-up communication if that happens. The safety of our students and staff is a priority.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) superintendent met with school district superintendents from across the county to collaborate on countywide guidelines. You can view the news release from the SCCOE at the SCCOE website.

As always, please feel free to contact your school site or the District Office if you have any questions or concerns.