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Virtually all of Sonoma County public schools cancel Tuesday classes

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The vast majority of Sonoma County students will spend another day at home today as a result of poor air quality in the region, the county Office of Education said late Monday night.

About 90 percent of county school districts again will be closed because of concerns about unhealthy smoke from the Camp fire near Chico in Butte County, with only campuses along the Sonoma Coast remaining open today, County Superintendent Steven Herrington said in an interview Monday night. The county has 40 school districts serving more than 71,000 students. The Air Quality Index is currently at the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” level. We will be having school today but will keep students indoors as much as possible.

Ukiah Unified School District officials Tuesday morning announced schools were open. “The Air Quality Index is currently at the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” level. We will be having school today but will keep students indoors as much as possible,” said Doug Shald, district spokesman.

Sonoma County’s education office announced a flurry of closings Monday night, after many districts measured their air quality at 8 p.m. or later to determine if the levels would allow the schools to operate today without exposing students to unhealthy conditions.

“Part of this is the EPA (air quality) standards for children are much higher than they are for adults,” Herrington said of the challenges for school administrators.

Also, Santa Rosa Junior College announced late Monday that all classes and activities would be canceled today, including its board of trustees meeting. That decision left Sonoma State University as the only major local academic institution that planned to be open today, though the university had canceled all outdoor activities on campus.

Administrators will re-evaluate their decision this morning and give an update to students, faculty and staff by 7 a.m.

“We’re aware the air quality has deteriorated rapidly this evening,” SSU spokesman Paul Gullixson said.

Santa Rosa City Schools, the county’s largest district with about 16,000 students, said Monday night it would be closed today, after officials earlier in the day said they would reopen — though suspend outdoor activities.

“We are making decisions on a day-to-day basis. We always prefer to keep school open to keep teaching and learning consistent and to cause the least disruption to the community. But our students’ health and safety is our primary concern so we base our discussion on the air-quality index,” Jenni Klose, president of the Santa Rosa school board, said in a statement Monday night.

Besides Santa Rosa City Schools, the other county school districts that announced closings as of 10 p.m. Monday included: Alexander Valley in Healdsburg; Cloverdale Unified; Bellevue Union in Santa Rosa; Bennett Valley; Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified; Cinnabar in Petaluma; Dunham in Petaluma; Forestville Union; Fort Ross in Cazadero; Geyserville Unified; Gravenstein Union in Sebastopol; Guerneville School; Harmony in Occidental; Healdsburg Unified; Kenwood; Mark West Union in Santa Rosa; Monte Rio; Montgomery in Cazadero; Oak Grove Union in Santa Rosa; Old Adobe in Petaluma; Petaluma City Schools; Piner Olivet in Santa Rosa; Rincon Valley; Roseland; Sebastopol Independent Charter; Sebastopol Union; Sonoma Valley; Twin Hills in Sebastopol; Waugh in Petaluma; West Sonoma County Union; Wilmar in Petaluma; Windsor Unified School District; and Wright in Santa Rosa.

In addition, these independent charter schools and other programs also will be closed today: Credo High in Cotati/Rohnert Park; Headwaters Academy (SCOE) in Petaluma; Live Oak Charter in Petaluma; Pathways Charter (non-school day for staff development); REACH Charter School; River Montessori Charter in Petaluma; Sebastopol Independent Charter; Woodland Star Charter in Sonoma; Village Charter; West County Special Ed Consortium; and Woodland Star Charter in Sonoma.

Santa Rosa’s junior college, Sonoma State and all 40 county public school districts were closed Friday, when the Camp fire over 100 miles away caused poor air quality deemed unhealthy for students.

By Monday afternoon, districts such as Cotati-Rohnert Park, Rincon Valley and Healdsburg districts announced its schools would reopen, but acknowledged the decision could change pending fire and weather conditions.

However, they all were forced to reverse course once air quality readings came in on Monday night. Analy High School parent Sienna Hornback said she was relieved when schools were closed on Friday, with the bad air quality posing a threat to student health, but she worried about campus conditions.

“I appreciate the efforts to keep our children safe from these conditions. I am concerned, however, that schools may reopen too soon based on air quality alone, without consideration for cleaning up the toxic conditions left by the ash that has fallen on school grounds,” she wrote in an email to West County Superintendent Toni Beal.

Beal said custodial staff will focus on vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, cleaning desks and interior and exterior surfaces.

Grounds and maintenance staff will clear leaves and power-wash benches and tables. Air filters will be replaced across the district.

“This process is the same one that was used throughout the county last year when our area was impacted by fires,” Beal wrote in an email.

The Rincon Valley Union School District has run air purifiers at full capacity in all its classrooms since Thursday afternoon, according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.

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