Central Point School District #6

Archive for September, 2017

Air Quality Update–September 8, 2017

Friday, September 8th, 2017

A shift in weather has allowed for some improvement in air quality; it’s a welcome change.  Principals and school staff will use the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Index, aligned to the EPA’s Guide for Schools, to make decisions about student activity.  This means that outdoor activities may be possible today.  If you would like your student to remain indoors, please send a note or contact your child’s school–an indoor option is always available.  Should your child choose to remain indoors for any reason, he or she will be allowed to stay in.  If you have questions or concerns, please contact your building principal or you’re always welcome to contact me–Samantha Steele samantha.steele@district6.org, 541-494-6201 (office) 541-840-5644 (cell).

Air Quality Update and FAQ–September 6, 2017

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

While many parents are relieved that schools are up and running throughout the valley, we’ve had our share of concerns—many of those posted on the district and school FaceBook pages.  The following is a “Frequently Asked Questions” that may give some insight into our logic about keeping our schools open.

 The Air Quality Index is consistently poor—from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” and “hazardous”—why would schools remain open?

While the air quality is indeed terrible, we want to be sure that parents and families have a choice about sending kids to schools.  Some families, especially those with children who have medical issues or are sensitive to smoke, may choose to keep their children home.  Others simply feel more comfortable keeping their kids at home during this time.  And, some families view the smoky air as inescapable and find that our schools are no worse than the air quality in their homes and communities.  Closing schools for all students removes the choice for families and requires every student to stay home.  We respect and support the decisions of parents who choose to send their kids to school as well as parents who choose to keep their kids at home.

How are you monitoring air quality?

We’ve consistently used the DEQ’s website, www.deq.state.or.us and the data from the Medford Grant/Belmont station (this is the station closest to our district).    As the air quality shifts (we hope) over the next few weeks, we’ll use the Air Quality Index, along with the EPA Guidelines for Schools, the Oregon Health Department Guidelines for Student Activity and the OSSA Guidelines to make decisions about outdoor student activity.  If you’ve been on-line, you know that the DEQ site has experienced some difficulties because of high traffic—we continue to “refresh” the page and have been able (so far) to get data virtually every hour.  Also, we can use the 5-3-1 Visibility Index and would use the more conservative of the two.

What about my student missing class, assignments and instruction?

Schools and staff will do everything possible to provide assignments and support for students who do not attend.  Should you choose to keep your child at home, contact your school to discuss options that would best support you and your child.  Getting assignments and homework is one option.  For those who would like to reduce the number of hours their child is in school, talk with your principal about a partial day schedule.  These are extraordinary circumstances—our school staff recognizes that and we have nothing but respect for our parents’ choices for their own children.

What about classrooms and schools without air conditioning?

There is no doubt that air-conditioning assists with making classrooms more comfortable and it does assist with some air filtering.  However, in schools and classrooms, students entering and exiting (opening doors throughout the day) mitigates much of air filtering benefit of the air conditioning.  Additionally, many of our buildings are designed so that each classroom opens to the outside (no interior hall ways), so students are outside between classes, going to the cafeteria or library, etc.  Classrooms without air conditioning have had to manage both heat and air quality—definitely a difficult situation and one that we’re monitoring.

Why have there been windows and doors open at my child’s school?

Ideally, the weather outside would be mild and keeping doors and windows closed as much as possible would be the rule of thumb.  However, teachers and other staff will make decisions as conditions evolve—they are likely trying to strike a balance between heat and smoky air.  Our maintenance department is working closely with principals to identify the best strategies for individual buildings and classrooms.  Truly, teachers and staff are making every effort to provide the safest and most comfortable learning environment given the circumstances.

Why are some students outside during the school day?

School staff rely on the DEQ hourly index to make decisions about student activity, aligned with the Oregon Health Department Guidelines and the EPA Guidelines for Schools.  Please know that parents may request that their child not be outside—contact your school.  And, any student may request an “indoor” option, even when the air quality allows for light outdoor activity.

What about adding window or portable air-conditioners to classrooms that don’t have central air?

A few folks have stepped forward and offered to donate portable air conditioners (many thanks!).  District staff will respond to these requests and suggestions by evaluating the space intended for the portable A/C and determine whether or not adding that appliance will exceed the electoral load for the circuit.   Unfortunately, in our older buildings (the one’s without A/C) the electrical system may not be equipped to handle multiple A/C units, technology, and all of the other things we plug in that didn’t exist when the building was built.   We’ll work with our Maintenance Department to further problem solve this issue on a case by case basis.

What can I do if I still have questions or concerns?

For questions specific to your child and school, the building principal is the best option.  If you have questions about our district procedures during this time, or have some great ideas for helping us navigate this, please contact me samantha.steele@district6.org, 541-494-6201 (office), 541-840-5644 (cell).  We certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I know the D6 community—parents, kids, and staff—can work together during this difficult time to keep our kids safe and healthy.

 

Air quality and outdoor student activity, school closure or delay

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Currently, schools in District 6 will open on Tuesday, as scheduled. School closures or delays resulting from air quality issues will be handled like severe weather delays and closures. School officials will monitor the Air Quality Index and weather to consider school closure or delay should conditions be deemed unsafe. Any decisions about closure or delay will be made by 6:00 am on school days (at the very latest) and posted on the District 6 website and Facebook page. Staff will be notified via email.

The Department of Environmental Quality has consistently categorized the air quality in the Rogue Valley as “unhealthy” (although there have been a few, brief windows of relief) and today the Air Quality Index has reached “Very Unhealthy” levels for much of the valley. The proximity, intensity and size of surrounding wildfires, combined with our typical summer weather conditions, suggest that the valley will face smoky conditions for at least a few weeks.

All children are designated “sensitive populations” and during “Unhealthy” and worse conditions, should limit activity in smoky conditions. School officials are closely monitoring the air quality conditions and use the DEQ’s index to make decisions about outdoor activity, along with specific guidance from the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) for secondary athletics and activities, and the Oregon Health Department for outdoor school activities (recess, PE and other activities).

Use the following links for specific information: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/, Oregon Health Department Guidelines, OSAA Guidance, EPA Guidelines for Schools.

While it’s easy to limit outdoor activities, conditions indoors also pose some risk to children and adults. The majority of our buildings are quite old and not equipped with air conditioning. However, even air-conditioned spaces provide little protection from the outdoor air quality. Air handlers utilize outside air for cooling and the filtration system in typical air conditioning systems does not filter out all hazardous particles. Only chambered entrances combined with air purification systems (found in buildings like hospitals and some homes) offer significant insulation from poor outdoor air quality. Further, simply opening and closing exterior doors (something that happens consistently through the school day) exposes interior, air-conditioned spaces directly to outdoor air conditions.

Any student who is sensitive to outdoor air conditions will be allowed to remain indoors for recess, PE or other activities. School staff, including principals, teachers, and classified staff are aware that some students may be extra sensitive to the smoke.

Finally, parents will ultimately make decisions about their child’s exposure to smoky outdoor air. If your child is particularly sensitive to the smoky air or has a medical condition that requires limited exposure, you may choose not to send your child to school. If this is the case, please contact your school; arrangements can be made for your child to receive assignments at home.

Even as the smoky air poses a challenge for opening week, District 6 schools and staff are prepared and excited to welcome your children to the 2017-18 school year.