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Napa Valley school districts shutting down Friday due to bad air

Napa Valley school districts shutting down Friday due to bad air

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The Napa Valley Unified School District announced Thursday that it would be closing schools in Napa, American Canyon and Yountville on Friday due to unhealthy air.

Napa Valley College, the St. Helena Unified School District and the Napa County Office of Education are also closing Friday, with the Calistoga Joint Unified School District leaning in that direction as of 4 p.m., said Barbara Nemko, county superintendent of schools.

The NVUSD sent a message to parents saying, “In light of the cumulative physical effects of several days of unhealthy air quality and the mental and emotional impacts on our students of being asked to stay indoors without physical activity, NVUSD schools will be closed on Friday, Nov. 16.”

In response to the NVUSD decision, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley announced late Thursday that they will open their Napa and American Canyon clubhouses for day camp from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday. The clubs will accept all youth ages 6-18 for a $10 per child day camp fee. For more information, visit www.thepositiveplace.org.

The school district had kept schools open this week although air quality index readings were in a range considered “unhealthy,” prompting criticism from some parents who worried about their children’s welfare.

The district curtailed student outdoor activities this week to minimize the exposure to haze from the Camp Fire in Butte County, which has covered much of Northern California in smoke.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend that schools close when air quality is at Napa’s levels, but does recommend that students be kept indoors during the school day.

Schools had been kept open, in part, because of concerns about childcare arrangements if students stayed home, officials had said. The NVUSD has 17,500 students.

Elizabeth Emmett, a NVUSD spokeswoman, said many surrounding school districts, including Fairfield, Vallejo and Benicia, had made the decision to close on Friday.

The athletics staff will follow North Coast Section guidelines for competitions and practices, and athletes will be notified by coaches directly, the district said.

Next week is Thanksgiving break. The district hopes air quality will have returned to normal when classes resume Nov. 26, Emmett said.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.

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