What role does the Santa Clara County Office of Education have regarding whether schools close?
The Santa County Office of Education (SCCOE) provides guidance and coordination services for all school districts in Santa Clara County. Further, the SCCOE operates programs located at local school district campuses. We have a shared duty to all of the students in the county.
How high does the Air Quality Index (AQI) Number need to be for schools to close?
If the AQI number is greater than 275 schools will consider closing. AQI is monitored hourly and, projections and forecasts are analyzed. If the trends remain in the high range of the unhealthy quality for a prolonged period, we will consider closure. AQI Guidelines are linked.
What was the rationale to leave schools open?
Schools are safe places. Schools provide indoor shelter for children. Keeping schools open allows for continuity and consistency for youth. By leaving the schools open, we are giving parents a choice whether to send their child at school or stay home. By closing the school, parents have no choice but to find alternate care for their child.
Why did some schools choose to close?
Communities may be impacted differently as a result of microclimates, proximity to the fire zone, and other factors.
What will happen if I keep my child out of school?
You know your child's health history best, and if there is a concern we recommend you follow medical advice first. Every parent has the right to keep their child at home. We ask that families follow absence reporting guidelines and be sure to report the absence in the usual means. It will be an excused absence.
If a school does not close during a poor air quality day, can I keep my child at home without calling in the absence?
Proper attendance recording requires that attendance be taken each day. There are two types of absences, excused and unexcused. Ed Code 48260 (c) gives guidance on a valid excused absence:
“a valid excuse includes, but is not limited to, the reasons for which a pupil shall be excused from school pursuant to Sections 48205 and 48225.5 and may include other reasons that are within the discretion of school administrators and, based on the facts of the pupil’s circumstances, are deemed to constitute a valid excuse.”
Districts should document a valid reason for an excused absence, as it is necessary to properly maintain records to support attendance. Districts cannot assume a reason for an absence and must maintain documentation supporting any recorded excused absence.
Even during the recent wild fire events impacting air quality, districts should consistently apply these attendance keeping procedures.
Therefore, if it is a district requirement for parents/guardians to call in, then parents should continue to follow this procedure when deciding to keep students at home for poor air quality.
My child has perfect attendance if I keep my child at home, will they lose that attendance record?
If you are concerned about attendance, schools provide a safe indoor shelter.
Colleges and Universities have closed, why are pre-k, elementary, and secondary schools still open?
The SCCOE does not oversee Colleges and Universities and as such did not consult with or provide guidance to the leadership of the college and universities. Generally, it is understood that Pre-K to high school campuses and the factors associated with serving children and families is different from those serving an adult student population.
Are schools remaining open due to financial concerns?
Finances were not a factor in the decision to keep schools open. Each district is funded differently; many would not be affected either way. California law allows schools to continue to receive state funds from the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) if they have to close because of a natural disaster such as floods, fires, earthquakes or other extraordinary conditions, such as hazardous air quality. For more information, read the statement from State Superintendent of Public Schools, Tom Torlakson: https://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr18/yr18rel75.asp
If the district implements a school closure day due to poor air quality, what is the procedure for requesting a waiver from the California State Department of Education (CDE)?
Districts will need to complete a Request for Allowance of Attendance Due to Emergency Conditions form J-13A. Information is available through the CDE website: https://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/pa/j13a.asp
Don't you care about children?
The safety of students is our number one priority. We care deeply for children. We know that environmental concerns can be very alarming for children. Schools provide consistency and continuity for children and provide safe indoor conditions.
Where can I find more information?
Guidance on Air Quality Press Conference
News Release: Santa Clara County Superintendent Issues Guidance Due to Air Quality Concerns
News Release: Continued Guidance on Air Quality Concerns
Air Quality Reports: AIRNow.gov; Five Day Forecast; Hourly Air Quality Trends; Purple Air Map
County of Santa Clara Public Health: Avoid Breathing Wildfire Smoke; Avoid Breathing Wildfire Smoke (Update)
Santa Clara County Office of Education: Air Quality Guidelines, Fundamentos del índice de la calidad del aire; Bản hướng dẫn về Chất lượng Không khí
Environmental Protection Agency: Air Quality and Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools
County of Santa Clara Public Health: Avoid Breathing Wildfire Smoke
Sample Parent Letter Vietnamese, Spanish, English
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