Schools limit outdoor time or shut as smoke blankets Sacramento area

Schools in the Sacramento area are announcing closures or other measures to reduce exposure as wildfire smoke continues to create poor air quality throughout much of Northern California.

Air Quality Index readings in the “unhealthy” (150 or higher) or “hazardous” (200 or higher) range prompted a number of K-12 districts and a few private schools to take action:

  • Jesuit High School in Carmichael posted an “urgent” air quality update and announced a last-minute closure of campus Wednesday morning, saying AQI near the school was expected to spike around 260. The school says it will monitor quality and has yet to decide if it will be open Thursday or Friday.

  • Sacramento City Unified School District said in a news release this week that it would keep students indoors and cancel all outdoor field trips and sporting events; as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, those restrictions still stood for Wednesday.

  • Folsom Cordova Unified School District announced on its website it will require school principals and site leads to monitor air quality forecasts and move activities indoors when AQI reaches the “unhealthy” range. The announcement said coaches are “strongly encouraged” to move athletic team practices indoors or reschedule them.

  • San Juan Unified School District has also implemented restrictions, saying in a Tuesday Facebook post that recess and all other athletic activities would be moved indoors or canceled.

  • Natomas Unified School District indicated on social media that all schools’ outdoor physical activities would be moved indoors, with these restrictions lasting through at least Wednesday.

San Juan Unified has more than 50,000 students and Sacramento City Unified has about 47,000, according to the County Office of Education.


This live-updating map shows the combined readings for particulate matter and ozone.
AQI Animation -

Meanwhile, the area’s major community colleges — the four Los Rios schools and Sierra College in Rocklin — have put limitations in place to outdoor activities at their campuses this week. As of Wednesday morning, none had announced campus closures or widespread class cancellations.

An alert emailed to Los Rios faculty Tuesday and Wednesday morning obtained by The Bee said campus would remain open, but said faculty members should stay home if smoke caused health concerns for them, and should be lenient toward students with concerns. The full alert reads:

“ARC will be open today (Tuesday, Nov. 13) but we advise caution to our campus community because of smoke in the area. Outdoor activities on campus will be limited or canceled. If you are sick or the smoke causes you health concerns, out of an abundance of caution we advise that you please stay home and take care of yourself. Contact your supervisor with your status. Please understand if students are absent because of health concerns. Look for updates and more information later today or early tomorrow morning. Thank you.”

Sierra College tweeted that campus would be open Wednesday and that officials would monitor conditions and provide updates throughout the day. Just after 9 a.m., Sierra College announced all Kinesiology activity (PE) classes would be canceled Wednesday due to poor air quality in Rocklin.

Four-year universities Sacramento State and UC Davis closed their campuses Wednesday. The latter did so following backlash from students and faculty after a Tuesday night announcement that classes would remain, despite some indications that AQI readings in Davis would be worse Wednesday than Tuesday.

UC Davis canceled all classes Tuesday, but the campus remained open.

Sacramento State closed its main and downtown campuses both Tuesday and Wednesday. The university announced Wednesday afternoon that the campus would remain closed Thursday but planned to reopen Friday.

A statement from CSUS President Robert Nelsen said: “The situation remains dynamic with a constantly changing air quality forecast. Still, we are very concerned about the loss of another class day and its impact on our faculty and students. After significant discussion, members of the campus-wide Critical Response Team made the decision to close the campus on Thursday to protect the health of our Hornet Family.”

Sacramento’s Spare the Air website shows AQI reading of 174 for the high Wednesday. AQI levels reached 178 on Tuesday.

Smoke from the Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest-ever wildfire that continues to burn more than 135,000 acres in Butte County, traveled more than 80 miles south to afflict Sacramento and surrounding areas, with conditions becoming poor enough Saturday to lead the city of Sacramento to start handing out N95 respirator masks.

Events both indoor and outdoor were canceled across the region. The Amazon fulfillment center at Sacramento International Airport evacuated and closed Saturday as a precaution. Amazon’s warehouse at SMF remained closed as of Tuesday evening.

K-12 schools were closed Monday in observance of Veterans Day and will be closed the entirety of next week for Thanksgiving. Sacramento State, UC Davis and local community colleges are closed next Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.

Much closer to the blaze, Butte County announced last Friday that all public schools, including charters, would be closed through the end of Thanksgiving break.

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