Camp Fire smoke causes Placer County schools to close; air quality conditions continue to worsen

By: Brody Fernandez Of Gold Country Media
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Updated Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m.

With the Camp Fire burning in Butte County, Placer County Air Quality Control District officials are warning that hazardous conditions are also in Placer County. As a result, schools in Placer County are closing their doors as conditions worsen.

This past week has been the worst smoke conditions Placer County has seen over an extended period of time, according to Placer County Air Pollution Control District’s associate planner and spokeswoman Ann Hobbs.

“In Butte County, because of the fire and evacuation perimeter, there are no close air monitors to see what those communities have been experiencing,” Hobbs said. “However, the consistently high numbers on the valley floor has been more prolonged than in the past. With so much smoke, some areas have canceled events and now schools.”


Sierra College

The area’s junior college announced an update on the schools closure Thursday afternoon. Sierra College spokeswoman Laurie Donahue released a statement saying classes will not be in session through Sunday.

“Due to poor air quality resulting from the Camp Fire, Sierra College has closed the Rocklin campus, Nevada County campus, and Roseville center through the evening of Sunday, Nov. 18,” Donahue said. “All classes and activities are canceled. The college is expected to resume normal operations on Monday, Nov. 19.”

The Sierra College official warned that closure after Sunday is possible.

“However, we will continue to monitor air quality conditions over the weekend,” Donahue said. “If there are any changes to the forecast and a Monday closure becomes necessary, we will provide notification by email by Sunday at 3 p.m.”



Roseville Joint Union High School District spokeswoman Shannon Blockton released a statement Thursday afternoon about canceling classes.

“Due to continuing unhealthy air quality conditions, we have made the decision to close all Roseville Joint Union High Schools and offices on Friday, Nov. 16th,” Blockton said.

The high school district includes Adelante High School, Antelope High School, Granite Bay High School, Independence High School, Oakmont High School, Roseville Adult School, Roseville High School and Woodcreek High School. Coordinating with local health officials and the Placer County Air Quality Control District, school district officials can’t minimize the risk for students enough to keep the schools open, according to Blockton.    

“While we followed health official guidance to this point, we feel the efforts cannot be sustained indefinitely to minimize exposure to poor air quality,” Blockton said Thursday. “After careful consideration and monitoring the air quality, we feel that it is in the best interest of all those involved to close our schools and offices tomorrow.”

Blockton described what will happen if the district receives or fails to receive a waiver from the state for the missed school day on Friday.

“We will be requesting a waiver for this missed school day from the state, due to the health and safety concerns. However, if a waiver is not received, we will be required to make up this missed school day at some point this school year,” Blockton said. “We will provide additional details as soon as we have confirmed information.”

Eureka School District and the Roseville City School District also released statements via their website; saying they too will not have class on Nov. 16 according to district officials. 

Rocklin Unified School District  

Rocklin schools will also be closing, according to Rocklin Unified School District spokeswoman Diana Capra.

“We have continued to monitor the Roseville/Rocklin/Lincoln Air Quality index throughout the day and have been in contact with Placer County public health officer in order to address the wellness and safety of our students and staff,” Capra said Thursday.

The Rocklin Unified School District schools includes 11 elementary schools: Antelope Creek, Rock Creek, Sierra, Breen, Rocklin, Sunset Ranch, Cobblestone, Twin Oaks, Parker Whitney, Ruhkala and Valley View. The district also encompasses Granite Oaks and Springview and in terms of middle schools. The high schools that fall under the district are Rocklin, Whitney and Victory high schools.

“Based on this input, we have made the decision to close all school sites and offices effective Friday, Nov. 16, 2018,” Capra said. “This closure of all Rocklin Unified School District schools includes the closure of all district schools and facilities for students, staff, athletics and community events.”

Rocklin schools remained open Thursday while other area schools closed.

“Schools remained open today following the recommendations of public health officials,” Capra said. “However, while air quality in parts of our district has remained steady or even improved throughout the course of the day, other schools in the district have entered the ‘Very Unhealthy’ range. This has prompted the decision to close all Rocklin Unified School District schools on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.”

Depending on air quality conditions in the coming days, more school days could be canceled next week.

“Please be aware that air quality can change rapidly at different times during the day due to wind shifts,”Capra said. “Therefore, it is important to monitor the air quality throughout the day in your area and make plans accordingly. Please keep yourselves and your families safe.” 


Loomis Union School District & Del Oro High School 

Del Oro High School along with all Loomis elementary schools in the area will remain open on Friday Nov. 16 according to Placer Union High School officials. Gold Country Media reached out to Placer Union High School District spokeswoman Kristin Conner for more info. "After monitoring the air quality index throughout the day and careful consideration, we have made the decision to keep all district schools open tomorrow, Nov. 16," Conner said.  
"This decision remains consistent with the Placer County Health Department’s recommendation that it is just as safe to be indoors at school as it is to be at home," Conner said. "But to ensure that all outdoor activities and PE are restricted." 
The District then explained that they will take safety measures for the students while class remains scheduled. "A benefit of this decision is that we can limit students exposure to the outside air by keeping them inside and supervised throughout the school day." 
Loomis Union School District officials shared the same sentiment with a press release via their website. "After further consultation with the Placer County Public Health Department and Placer County Office of Education we have made the decision to keep our schools open on Friday, Nov. 16.