(Eric Pratt/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

UPDATED: SF schools close due to deteriorating air quality

San Francisco public schools will be closed Friday due to increases in unhealthy air quality caused by wildfires in Northern California, the San Francisco Unified School District announced Thursday afternoon.

Students were already being kept indoors this week during instruction hours and all outdoor high school and middle school practices had been cancelled and outdoor sports contests postponed.

The announcement came after the Bay Area Air Quality Management District extended a Winter Spare the Air Alert through Tuesday due to smoke settling across The City from the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County. The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management said in a tweet on Thursday afternoon that the the district’s Air Quality index increased to purple, which indicates an increased health risk to “very unhealthy,” and cautioned the public to remain indoors.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Public Health in response to increased health risks, San Francisco is “experiencing unusually smoky air as a result of local weather patterns.”

The health department said in the statement that purple levels indicate that “everyone may experience more serious health effects,” and recommends that “everyone stay indoors and avoid exposure to the outside air.” 

Camp Fire has expanded to over 140,000 acres and is at 40 percent contained, the health department reported Thursday.

Classes were also cancelled as of 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at City College of San Francisco, which coordinates its emergency response with the school district. City College spokesperson Connie Chan said that the college’s campuses will remain closed until Monday.

College of San Mateo, Canada College and Skyline College in San Mateo County are also closed through Saturday, and San Francisco State University announced on Thursday that it was closed through Monday, Nov. 26. Ohlone College in Fremont announced that it had also cancelled classes on Thursday following a petition launched by its students.

Cal State East Bay officials said in a tweet that campuses will be closed Thursday, and San Jose University also decided to close their campus on Thursday and on Friday due to the air quality.

The UC Hastings and UCSF campuses in San Francisco remained open on Thursday, and classes were in session with attendance optional at the Art Institute of California at San Francisco.

“As of yesterday, there were no plans to close the campus,” UCSF spokesperson Suzanne Leigh told the San Francisco Examiner.

The San Francisco campuses of the University of San Francisco were closed Thursday afternoon through Friday, along with the university’s Pleasanton, Santa Rosa and Sacramento campuses, based on an “air quality forecast and AQI currently above 200 in San Francisco,” USF said in a statement. 

The closures and cancellations extend to all administrative offices and campus activities with the exception of a men’s basketball game scheduled on Friday evening, according to the statement. All nonessential personnel were released from their duties Thursday afternoon.

This story has been updated to include a statement from the Department of Public health and to reflect the USF campus closures.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

 

(Eric Pratt/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

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