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School Leaders Balance Air Quality and COVID Safety Based on Local Conditions

Local conditions with COVID and air quality are key to determining regular school operations.

student reading outdoors

While air quality in our own community remained in the good to moderate zones, and students were able to be outside, many wondered how schools would manage COVID safety if the air quality worsens for us.

Local conditions with COVID and air quality are key as school administrators navigate safe operations on campus each day. The website allows us to see local Air Quality Index (AQI) levels and the recommended actions for each level. 

As the chart on the the site shows:

  • When the AQI reaches 51-100, it is recommended that sensitive people consider reducing prolonged/heavy exertion. 
  • When the AQI is above 100, all students should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. 
  • When the AQI is above 101, we are to close all windows and doors and move prolonged outdoor educational instruction indoors. 
  • When AQI is 151 or higher, we are to move all activities indoors. 

We work with Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) to manage the health impacts between poor air quality and COVID-19. 

While in classrooms, the hospital grade (MERV 13) air filters in our ventilation systems are able to trap 90 percent of particulates from smoky outside air. The settings allow maximum outdoor airflow as a COVID mitigation strategy. If adjustments to the classroom airflow system is recommended, such as closing doors and windows, they will be communicated to staff and families. 

Our office staff provides teachers with notifice of all asthmatic students in their class so they can check in with these students during poor air quality days. 

The Public Health Department has shared with us that our ventilation system, and masking allow for any instances that may require bringing all activities indoors. If we are required to have students eat indoors, we will work with our school staff to allow 6 feet between students as much as is practicable. 

As we have done since the beginning, we will work with public health officials to balance the health needs related to bad air with the mitigation strategies for preventing COVID-19. Our decisions will be based on local conditions and under the guidance of experts in these areas.