AIR QUALITY DURING COVID-19

Update September 2020

This guidance was originally developed in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance below provides examples of decision-making factors and transition points when air quality reaches a certain level of hazard. The existence of the pandemic does not make it safer to be outdoors in times of poor air quality, so we may need to make adjustments to our decision points outlined below in the event that we are relying on outdoor spaces and/or natural ventilation in our schools this year. Note the updates are in purple.

Items to be particularly customized by your team are in green.

Gathering data:

Monitor Air Quality through a reliable tool, such as the federal official air quality site AirNow. If the official site is not definitive, consult with Purple Air and cross-check with additional local official resources.

Regardless of what tool you’re using, if you see smoke or see ash, the air quality is unhealthy - in spite of what it might show on the monitoring tool. Trust your senses.

Determining Course of Action:

Use all the data at your disposal - including factors such as wind predictions, local school district closures, and news media reports - to help determine current and predicted AQI (Air Quality Index). The following chart can be used to assign hazard levels and make recommendations:

 

Level 2: Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

If the Air Quality Index reading is rated “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” (Level 2), we will:

  • Keep school open.
  • Close all doors and windows and run classroom air purifiers. 
    • Does this conflict with your ventilation / air filtration protocols this year? If Yes -> Level 5
  • Restrict PE and after-school care and enrichment to indoors. 
    • Can we maintain physical distancing? If No -> Level 5
  • Allow outdoor recess and lunch.
  • Allow classes to move across campus to specialist classrooms.
    • Only if allowable within current procedures
  • Run standard dismissal procedures at the end of the day.
  • Ensure Health Office and Welcome Center / Front Desk coordinates accommodations for students with severe airborne allergies and other difficulty breathing to remain indoors during lunch, recess, and dismissal.
    • Does this conflict with your lunch, recess, or dismissal procedures? If Yes -> consider offering distance learning / early dismissal for higher-risk individuals on an as-needed basis
  • Alert school community through Emergency Notification System.

Level 3: Unhealthy AND Level 4: Very Unhealthy

If the Air Quality Index reading is rated “Unhealthy” (Level 3) or “Very Unhealthy (Level 4), we will:

  • Keep school open.
  • Close all doors and windows and run classroom air purifiers.
    • Does this conflict with your ventilation / air filtration protocols this year? If Yes -> Level 5
  • Restrict PE, recess, lunch, and after-school care and enrichment to indoors.
    • Can we maintain physical distancing? If No -> Level 5
  • Require specialist teachers to meet their classes in the homerooms, rather than requiring students to switch classrooms.
  • Run rainy-day dismissal procedures at the end of the day.
    • Can we maintain physical distancing? If No -> Consider alternate spaces; building in additional time to stagger groups; or Level 5
  • Ensure Health Office and Welcome Center / Front Desk coordinates accommodations for students with severe airborne allergies and other difficulty breathing to remain in the administrative building during dismissal.
    • Does this conflict with your dismissal procedures? If Yes -> consider offering distance learning / early dismissal for higher-risk individuals on an as-needed basis
  • Alert school community through Emergency Notification System.

Level 5: Hazardous

If the Air Quality Index reading is rated “Hazardous” (Level 5) we will:

  • Implement School Closure procedures, at the direction of the Incident Commander

If school has already begun and we experience an increase of AQI into Level 5 levels, we will:

  • Immediately implement Level 3 / Level 4 procedures.
  • Notify school community through Emergency Notification System.
  • Prepare faculty and staff for early dismissal.
  • Advise parents that formal instruction will cease for the day and that they should come pick up their students as soon as they can safely do so.
    • Include specific directions if changes have been implemented this year for pickup locations or procedures
  • Dismiss students from classrooms throughout the rest of the day as parents arrive.

Note: Once a level of response has been implemented, we will not de-escalate to a lower level the same day. For example, once a Level 2 response has been announced, we will not move back to outdoor PE until the following day at the earliest; etc.

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