The decision about whether or not to close schools when the air quality is unhealthy is one that Napa County schools do not take lightly. The health and safety of the students is our top priority. This year, as we did last year when the fires were raging in Napa County, the five district superintendents and I jointly consulted with Dr. Karen Relucio, Public Health Officer for Napa County.
Dr. Relucio pointed out that this year is different because the fires are not burning in our county and no one is being evacuated. She advised us to consider what the best decision would be causing the least amount of disruption for the majority of the people. Because the quality of the air was registering unhealthy, (which means between 150 and 200 on the air-quality index), she recommended that schools remain open and teachers be advised to keep the children indoors for most of the day and forgo prolonged exercise outdoors. This would minimize disruption and follow the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for school response to air quality. For families who have children with asthma or other respiratory issues, there is an option of keeping children home on an excused absence. Going forward, Dr. Relucio recommends closing schools if the air-quality index reaches 275 or above. She has also updated the air quality information on the Napa County website, including a link to the EPA’s recommendations for schools: countyofnapa.org/2246/Air-Quality-in-Napa-County.
As anticipated, some families were unhappy with our decision, and questioned why districts in Sonoma County were closed while we remained open. On Nov. 13, the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools met with their 40 district superintendents and Sonoma County Department of Health officials. As a result of that meeting, all but two of the school districts in Sonoma reopened on Nov. 14.
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Any time schools are closed, it is disruptive to the learning process, but please be assured that we would never prioritize that over student health and safety. Feel free to call me with any questions or concerns. You can reach me at 707-253-6810 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Relucio has also offered to address any concerns or questions, and she can be reached at 253-4279 or email@example.com.
Barbara Nemko, Napa County Superintendent of Schools