Student health a concern during bad air days

Student health a concern during bad air days
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — With record-low rainfall levels, 2014 has already seen one of the unhealthiest air quality Januaries on record.

"I have a daughter with asthma, and I know how serious it can be," said Debbie Wood with the Bakersfield City School District.

Wood is part of a Valley Air Pollution District initiative to protect students like hers.

The Healthy Air Living Schools program provides schools with resources to promote health.

One way it accomplishes that goal is through a color coded flag system.

“A child with a known health condition, such as asthma or a heart condition would then not probably be going outside,” said Wood. "We'd have alternative activities in the library or the cafeteria."

The program also installs signage discouraging parents from idling their cars, and offers 24-hour access to air quality monitors though the real time air advisory network, or RAAN.

“I get updates hourly, when there is a change from these different systems that tell me the air quality's gotten better, or it’s gotten worse," Wood said.

Organizers say information provided through the system can alert school officials of bad air days, potentially saving sensitive children from missing school altogether.

"The RAAN program is very valuable for school administrators to determine if it's a day that's conducive for outdoor activities," said Janelle Schneider with the Valley Air Pollution District.

Cesar Chavez Elementary has already implemented the program.

“I can't say enough good things about it," said Cesar Chavez Elementary principal Dawn Slaybaugh. "It’s a wonderful program and I’m grateful to be included in that."

The Valley Air Pollution District's goal is to enroll 100 percent of San Joaquin Valley schools in their program.