Please reconsider keeping schools open during smoke events
To the NVUSD: An announcement was made on the Napa Valley Unified School District Website saying that there was to be school on Tuesday, Nov. 13. At the time that I personally read the announcement, around 9 p.m. the Monday night before school, the air quality in Napa had remained over 200 for several hours according to the website purpleair.com, a network that solely works on monitoring the air quality.
If you don’t find that site reliable, I look to the site that you referenced in your announcement, AIRNow, the EPA’s own website. While this site does not remain live, where PurpleAir does, it had labeled Monday, Nov. 12 as in red AQI (Air Quality Index) and, as you stated, predicted Tuesday to also be in the red area. The red area is also labeled as “Unhealthy.” Unhealthy, and yet you chose to keep schools in session on Tuesday.
Not every nearby school district chose to do this. You claim to have spoken to surrounding school districts about the choice of keeping schools in session. Sonoma, Petaluma, and Santa Rosa all were placed in the same AQI by the EPA as Napa was, and all of them chose to announce on their websites that school was canceled on Tuesday for the health and safety of students. You recognize health and safety not through canceling school, but instead in recognizing the parents’ right to keep their child home. I am left wondering why they chose to go down a different path than the one that was chosen for the youth in our community.
Another precaution that you are choosing to take over canceling school is by having teachers and staff close all doors and windows. While there are a couple of schools that this preventative measure may work at, it will not be much of a precaution at many of our secondary schools. Many of our schools have been set up so that not all classrooms are connected by one main hallway or are all in one main building.
Instead, students must spend time walking outside from class to class, an area in which the smoke cannot be regulated. The announcement also suggests to these schools that they should “maximize as much internal space as possible” but does not make any promise to keep students indoors during breaks.
Nurses being available is another promise made in the announcement to students and parents. However, having been an NVUSD student my entire academic career, I know that we have always been short-staffed in that particular job, several schools having to share one nurse. I now have to bring to question how these few nurses will be able to take care of all schools and all students. And students will need to be taken care of.
I was made aware of a student fainting from the smoke on Friday, Nov. 9, and I know that plenty of my own peers had to go to the Nurse’s Office, which didn’t have a nurse present, on Thursday and Friday to lie down or take a break because of the effects from the smoke.
And even in the Nurse’s Office, there was no air filter to purify the air to lessen the smoke’s effect on students. In fact, I only know of one classroom where there is one, which was brought in by the teacher because of her concern for her students’ health.
By writing this, I am asking you to take more into account when you have to make these types of decisions again in the future. It is considerate of you to develop precautions for the students’ health and safety, but those precautions are not enough to actually protect our students from the terrible air quality.
We should also look at what surrounding districts are doing, as well as taking into account the Air Quality Index as shown on AIRNow and PurpleAir. It is times like these where we have to weigh the value of students’ health and safety against the value of their education, and the students’ health and safety should always come out on top.
Thank you for taking your time to read and reflect on this. I hope that this will make an influence in some way or another.
Eilidh Stults, New
Technology High School
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