WCCUSD may limit outdoor activities amid ‘Spare the Air’ alert

WCCUSD to host community safety forum via Zoom
Photo credit: Kathy Chouteau

By Kathy Chouteau

As the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a “Spare the Air” alert Aug. 19-20 due to wildfire smoke from the north and east of the Bay Area, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Chris Hurst advised families via email Friday that schools remain open, but situations could change. He also indicated that the WCCUSD may be limiting outdoor activities today based on school locations.

In an earlier email Thurs., Aug. 19 related to the initial BAAQMD air advisory, the superintendent encouraged parents to keep their children home if they determine it is best to do so.

“WCCUSD stretches over very different areas of the county, from Hercules to El Cerrito, with each geographic area measuring different air quality ratings,” said Dr. Hurst Friday, who added that the “decision to modify outdoor activities or possibly close schools will be based upon each location.” He referred families to this air quality chart regarding actions the district will take during air quality situations.

The Bay Area’s Northern, Coast and Central Bay, Eastern, South Central Bay and Santa Clara Valley Zones are all currently in the orange tier, which indicates that air quality is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG)” and that “active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease such as asthma, should limit outdoor exertion,” per the BAAQMD.

According to BAAQMD’s air quality forecast, conditions are expected to improve over the weekend and into early next week.

Dr. Hurst noted in Friday’s correspondence that Contra Costa County Health has advised the district to keep HVAC systems running. In his Thursday correspondence, he outlined pandemic-related “upgrades to the HVAC based on ventilation and airflow in classrooms and other school facilities” that have taken place. These improvements included adding MERV13 high-efficiency air filters to the WCCUSD’s HVAC systems and adding HEPA Air filters for rooms “that required additional ventilation measures,” per the superintendent.

“We will be monitoring air quality…and will update you if conditions change,” said Dr. Hurst in Thursday’s email, while also suggesting families check the WCCUSD’s website and social media @westcontracostaschools (Facebook) and @wccusd (Instagram, Twitter) for the latest updates.