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Guidance for Schools During Wildfire Smoke Events

Health recommendations for schools, coaches, and event coordinators regarding student exposure to fine particle air pollution.

Over the last decade, devastating wildfires have ravaged communities and school districts in every corner of this state. These massive disasters impacted tens of thousands of Californians in the communities they call home and blanketed entire regions of California with thick, unhealthy smoke.

When a wildfire occurs nearby, the decision to close or evacuate a school is straightforward. However, as we have seen over the past several years, wildfire smoke can settle in communities hundreds of miles from the location of the fire and impact the health of students and school district operations.

Without clear state guidelines, districts must make complex, last-minute decisions on whether to cancel classes, remain open, or modify school events.

Leaders from education, air quality, and public health communities established a working group to develop state guidance regarding air quality for California’s 1,026 school districts during wildfire smoke days. The attached guidelines, located in the Article Resources section, are intended to advance local conversations between school districts, public health officers, air districts, and community members. They also provide educational leaders with the data they need to make informed decisions when their communities are inundated with wildfire smoke.

The guidelines do not supersede any protocols or procedures school districts may have already adopted. We encourage districts that haven’t already addressed this issue to begin the conversation before the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

California’s next big wildfire is not a matter of if but when.