With the reality of imminent fire danger and smoke pollution each year, the district has attempted to outline guidelines for smoother steps to keep students safe in future cases of poor air quality.
On Nov. 16, 2018, the MVLA school district ultimately decided to close school due to unhealthy air quality from the devastating Camp fire. The decision came after a series of unclear emails the night prior confirming class would be in session. The district’s new refined policies are an attempt at avoiding any such future mix ups.
What steps will MVLA take in the case of unhealthy air quality?
According to superintendent Nellie Meyer, the district works with a group of other school districts in the county in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to monitor air quality and determine when adjustments need to be made to accommodate student safety.
What has changed since the last school closure, and how does MVLA plan to address it in the future?
The district does not have a policy for the specific Air Quality Index level the school will close in-person instruction. However, they plan to work with the public health department and other partner school districts to make an informed decision.
“We’ve learned to make sure we monitor the data, and I think we could do a better job of coordinating not only with our partner district, but county-wide with public health,” Meyer said. “I think it’s fair to say that in the last year and a half with a pandemic, we’ve really been compelled to collaborate in a way like we never have before, so structures are in place.”
How will MVLA balance COVID-19 and unhealthy air quality safety?
The district COVID-19 protocols instruct to keep windows and doors open for proper ventilation, even though this goes against poor air quality protections. The district has high-performance HVAC systems that would keep students and staff safe even if windows and doors would need to be closed due to unhealthy air quality. According to Meyer, it is unlikely the district would have to close school due to combined COVID-19 and poor air quality risks because of the high rate of vaccination in the district.
“It would be one of those sliding scales. We would have to see what the [AQI] was for the smoke and we would have to weigh it against the numbers that we’re collecting for how many students and staff are vaccinated, and the risk there, then we would have to balance it. Ultimately, COVID-19 protocols [would probably win out]because it is much more immediate and dangerous” Meyer said.
What happens to P.E. classes and outdoor sports?
If deemed necessary, the school will move to indoor P. E. classes and cancel outdoor sports practices.
“We make modifications for physical education. MVLA has more protective restrictions than required for it, so we generally make changes when [the air quality]gets to [an AQI]of around 120,” Meyer said.