Poor air quality leads to PE class cancelations

While the Soberanes Fire may have been contained as of Oct. 13, the effects of poor air quality on the Carmel High School campus led to several Physical Education class cancellations throughout late August and September.

“If the air quality was unhealthy, P.E. was conducted elsewhere,” CHS nurse Susan Pierszalowski says. “If it was deemed moderate, it was by individual judgement.”

Students were advised to walk the track while less intensive physical fitness tests could be conducted.

“If it was okay to walk, I would have a fitness test that was all right to do that day,” CHS P.E. teacher Debbie French says.

Though the fire may now be fully contained, the P.E. teachers note the effects of air quality on campus.

“We were mostly inside… ” Weight Training coach Craig Johnston notes. “I gave students the option to opt out if they had respiratory issues.”

Poor air quality on campus especially affected those with asthma or other respiratory problems.

“Students with asthma or other heart problems are sometimes affected negatively,” French says. “We can’t just have some students participating and others not. We try to keep everyone together…. If the air quality was poor, we did not want them in an activity that could harm them.”

At its worst, the Air Quality Index, a number to report how polluted the air is, had reached above 10, signaling citizens to avoid outdoor activity. Due to this, students were occasionally advised to stay indoors if air quality had reached that level.

Smoke from the Loma Fire in Santa Cruz, Calif., also proved to contribute to poor air quality on campus.

“There was a second fire…so when we had two, the one in Santa Cruz caused more days for air quality control because there were two different fires,” French explains.

Pierszalowski says that a lack of proper safety precautions can become potentially unsafe for students, particularly for those with respiratory problems.

Emails were sent to teachers throughout the district from district maintenance and operations worker Marcella Garvon. Poor air quality would result in a skipped class period, whereas moderate air quality was judged on a case-by-case basis.

“When the sun would come up…you could just see the brown in the air,” Johnston says.

P.E. activities would be modified based on the air quality that day.

“If I was going to run a mile, I wouldn’t assign it on a day where air quality was poor,” French says. “I would do a different physical fitness test…. I would modify the curriculum.”

Without acceptable air conditions, teachers were advised to give students an extra study hall period in the library. P.E. has now returned to normal circumstances as of the containment of the Sobranes Fire.

-Kylie Yeatman