Statement from Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington on School Closures Due to Fire
Oct. 12, 2016
As we face the many challenges of this fire, I am being asked why schools aren’t re-opening and when they will reopen. I know that families are eager to have a sense of safety and normalcy restored by having their children return to daily routines, so I wanted to explain the numerous reasons that many schools must remain closed for the time being.
There are 40 independently operated school districts in Sonoma County. The decision to close schools must be made by each school superintendent, based on local circumstances. Those decisions are then shared with the County Office of Education, which communicates the information to the public. A few of our districts located on the north coast, far from many of the fire’s impacts, have been open during most of this crisis. Almost all others have been closed for good reason. Many may choose to remain closed next week, depending on circumstances at the time. We plan to announce any school closures for the week of Monday, Oct. 16 by 4:00pm on Sunday, Oct. 15.
The following are some of the many variables that must be considered when closing (and reopening) schools.
· In many areas, the threat of new fires remains strong
· Air quality: Areas with extremely bad air quality require school closure
· Smoke damage: Schools are still assessing smoke damage to their facilities
· Transportation: Transportation to schools is a challenge in many areas due to limited visibility from smoke; road closures; and evacuations
· Because of the extreme amount of smoke, ash, and tar, schools will need to go through an intensive process of inspecting playgrounds and blacktop and addressing health concerns before school resumes
· Staffing shortages: Many school staff have been personally impacted by the fires and may not be able to get to school to serve students
· The continued possibility of power outages remains a concern
· Some schools are acting as emergency shelters for the community
College Board exams can and will be re-scheduled due to the crisis, so this is not a significant concern for districts when cancelling. I hope the public can be patient and understanding as districts deal with these significant challenges.
Steven D. Herrington
Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools