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Wildfires and Air Quality

August 26, 2021

Dear SUSD Families and Staff,

Wildfire season is upon us. To assist our learning community as we navigate the impact resulting from poor air quality, including wildfire smoke that can be felt hundreds of miles from its origin, please take a moment to review the information and resources below.

Saratoga Union School District refers to, and follows, the guidelines in the School Air Quality Activity Recommendations, which were created by the California Department of Education in partnership with the California Air Resources Board, California Air Pollution Control Officers Association, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, Association of California School Administrators, and California School Boards Association. 

When the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange), unhealthy (red), or higher (purple and maroon), we work in consultation with surrounding districts and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Decisions on moving classes/activities indoors, cancelling activities, or closing schools will be made based on minimizing the risk for students and staff. Corresponding information will be communicated to our district families and staff when air quality index (AQI) levels are deemed unhealthy. 

Please note that all of our classrooms utilize MERV-13 filtration in their HVAC system. HVAC units are set to continuous fresh air exchange through the filters. Should doors and windows need to be closed due to poor outdoor air quality, outside air being pulled through the system is still run through the MERV-13 filters providing filtration for both smoke particles and viruses. Classrooms also have a portable HEPA filter machine for additional air filtration. 

In the event of sudden evacuation due to wildfire, coordination takes place between SUSD and local agencies (Santa Clara County Fire Department, Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and Santa Clara County Emergency Management) to arrange transportation, reunification, and communication.

To determine local air quality, district staff monitor several websites, including

When AQI is in the orange tier or higher, families can follow these tips to protect against smoke and COVID-19:  

  • Keep windows and doors closed until smoke levels subside.
  • Limit trips outside while air quality remains unhealthy.  
  • Continue to wear a face covering to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  
  • Minimize the amount of time you are active outdoors.   
  • Set car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside. 
  • CDC and EPA recommend sensitive people consider reducing prolonged/heavy exertion when the AQI is 51-100. Children and teenagers should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100. 

General information can also be found on the Santa Clara County Office of Education emergency advisory webpage.

Stay safe and healthy.

Ken Geisick