SCOE/RESIG Clarify Guidelines for Schools Reopening
Each school district has discretion to use its judgment when closing due to air quality. However, SCOE and RESIG recommend that districts close when the air quality for their area is projected to be in the red zone, as determined by airnow.gov. Caution should be exercised for the air quality zones yellow and orange when considering outdoor activities for sensitive groups (i.e. PE, football practice). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers children to be a sensitive group.
An earlier SCOE press release stated that all school districts will need to conduct an abatement process before opening. We have since learned that abatement is not an accurate term to use for the basic remediation that most schools are being asked to do. Abatement refers to certain types of toxic clean-up. In addition, the amount of remediation required will vary greatly depending on the school’s proximity to the fire.
Because the entire county was exposed to the smoke and fire debris to some level, SCOE and RESIG recommend that all schools replace air filters and clean surfaces students and staff will be in contact with as a precaution. Varying degrees of effort will be required based on proximity to the burn area. The general expectation is that all school districts do their due diligence to clear any potential interior smoke or ash from their school sites that may have accumulated. If districts see any visible soot/ash on interior surfaces, they should consider calling a professional remediation company. Employees should not touch any ash/contaminated material. Soot/ash accumulated outside needs to be addressed by a professional remediation company.This is to meet California Ed. Code's requirement that schools provide a safe and healthy learning environment. (citation below).
Schools that were in the burn area will require more extensive, professional remediation before they can re-open. In some cases, this exacting and time-consuming process is expected to take a week and a half or more. This will necessarily push back the open dates for these schools/districts.
California Ed Code Section 56520 states:
(a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) That the state has continually sought to provide an appropriate and meaningful educational program in a safe and healthy environment for all children regardless of possible physical, mental, or emotionally disabling conditions.