Outdoor-mounted detectors sensitive enough to read the density of smoke from northern California wildfires have been installed in three Dublin Unified School District locations.
One is placed at Dublin High School in the west, the second is more centrally located at James Dougherty Elementary School, and the third can be found at Amador Elementary School in the east.
The sensors will enable the district to help implement the smoky-air policy that the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) board approved at its Sept. 10 meeting.
DUSD will continue to use the EPA monitor in Livermore, which operates at a more precise technical level. The district wanted readings closer to its schools, but the cost of an EPA installation is steep, and requires expensive installation, DUSD spokesman Chip Dehnert said.
The district paid $250, including tax, for each of its three devices. They were hooked up to a wireless network by district IT staff. Building and maintenance staff installed the devices.
The sensor readings can be accessed online by going to purpleair.com, and typing in a ZIP code. Dublin’s code is 94568. For instance, a check of the Air Quality Index readings at about 11 a.m. on Oct. 14 were 63 at Dublin High School (moderate); and 44 at Dougherty Elementary School and 40 at Amador Elementary School (both good).
DUSD became one of the first districts in the state to adopt a policy addressing what it will do for students if the air becomes unhealthy, Dehnert said. The district consulted with the Alameda County health department and reviewed state government information, including some from the California Air Resources Board, before coming up with the policy.
DUSD provides a chart of its policy, and the decision points for actions it will consider, posted on its website at https://www.dublin.k12.ca.us/. Look for the “District Headlines” heading on the main page.
Index Limits Activities
In the 0-50 AQI range, which is labeled “good,” there will be no restrictions.
In the 51 to 100 range, which is considered “moderate,” staff will make sure that any sensitive individuals are managing their conditions for recess, lunch, PE, athletic practice or athletic events.
On the AQI, 101 to 150 is described by state and regional air quality officials as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” DUSD “strongly recommends” indoor lunch and recess for those with asthma or heart disease. Vigorous exercise in PE classes should be pursued for no more than 30 minutes.
In the 151-200 range, which is “unhealthy,” all activities such as lunch and recess should be indoors, and exercise such as PE and sports should be limited.
In the 201 to 300 “very unhealthy” range, the district may close schools, depending on how long the air quality is predicted to be bad. If in session, all activity must be indoors.
In the 300-500 range, “hazardous range,” there will be no school. Essential personnel may be called in to work.
In a special word about the N-95 masks that were used by some people in the fire season in 2017 and 2018, the school district says they are not approved for children in California. They also are not recommended for people with heart or air passage problems.