School Closure Due to Poor Air Quality


NASA's updated map of the Camp Fire damage shot from space. Creative Commons Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Kyra Geschke, Staff Writer

On Thursday Nov. 15, Head of School Than Healy sent an email to the student body,  parents and faculty announcing that school would be closed on Friday Nov. 16 due to poor air quality in the area as a result of the Camp Fire. The email detailed the tough decision made to cancel school and explained the school’s emphasis on student health over all else.

Because of continuously poor air quality in the Bay Area, the administration made the decision to cancel school for Monday Nov. 19 and Tuesday Nov. 20 as well. After an hour long administrative meeting on Sunday Nov. 18th, it was decided that classes would be canceled due to “concerns for the health of students, faculty and staff,” Healy said in an email.

Along with this, the school thought cancelling school completely was the best approach to help the most people stay safe and healthy during this time. “Because different people were responding to the expended exposure to poor air differently the proper response was not a singular approach but rather an approach that allowed everyone to get what they needed. By not requiring students, staff and faculty to come to school, we effectively allowed them to make different choices for themselves in the interest of their own self-care,” said Healy in an email.

Air quality for the past week has been consistently within the 150-200 Air Quality Index (AQI)  range, or between the Unhealthy and Very Unhealthy range. On Sunday Nov. 18, the air quality forecast projected that the AQI would continue to worsen as the week continued. Being exposed to the smoke-filled air for too long is dangerous and unhealthy for everyone, especially for people with respiratory issues.

Menlo joined Bellarmine, Saint Ignatius, Archbishop Mitty and other schools in the area in canceling classes this week due to air quality. School is scheduled to be back in session after the Thanksgiving break, and is not expected to be closed again due to air quality concerns.