AWHS faculty examine teaching options amid fire season


Corina Karr

Senor Jose Anchordoqui turning on his classroom’s Medify air purifier, identical to what should be in every classroom.

As fire season commences, California schools confront problems associated with poor air quality due to smoke. This leaves AWHS administration to question what the future of school will be like once air quality begins to worsen. The Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) has cancelled classes due to wildfire smoke in the past, but in the wake of COVID-19, school faculty now have the experience to combat poor air quality. 

COVID-19 prompted TUHSD to purchase Medify Air Purifiers for every room in the district, and replace all filters in classrooms.  How greatly this will influence the county’s smoke and COVID-19 guidelines is yet to be determined.

“At this point we are waiting for more guidance from the county and public health,” said new AWHS Principal LaSandra White.

According to the Marin County Office of Education, students are generally safer on school premises during smoke days. While at school, students are guaranteed to be inside and safe from harmful smoke, which students may be exposed to if school were cancelled.

 “If students aren’t in class then where are they? Maybe they’re not at home,” said AWHS Vice Principal Nate Severin. 

 Severin says that his concerns about the state of classes during fire season focus primarily on power shutoffs. Without power, AWHS would be cut off from essentials such as air purifiers, Zoom, and internet access. 

Although virtual school will not be required and applied to all students during smoke days, it is possible that those with health problems could attend school virtually to avoid smoke inhalation.

 “It could be a possibility… we have the infrastructure to do that … but it would have to be a negotiated thing with our teachers and our district,” Severin said.

Although nothing on handling smoke days is certain, school will remain in session until outside factors make it impossible. If AWHS does experience school cancellations, Jun. 13 and Jun. 14 will be added onto the school year as makeup days. 

While this will not be the first school year affected by wildfires, COVID-19 has altered conditions by accustoming AWHS to Zoom, advanced air filtration, and more advantageous resources. If air quality worsens, TUHSD will examine how best to accommodate students’ needs in the midst of fire season.