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How New Westminster schools will respond to air quality risks

New West schools will close windows and crank up ventilation if necessary.
New Westminster has been covered in haze from wildfire smoke over the weekend, and School District 40 has plans in place to respond to potential poor air quality.

New Westminster schools will be keeping an eye on the air quality today, as students head back to class after a weekend of wildfire smoke.

School District 40 issued a message to families early Monday morning in the wake of an air quality advisory that's been in place for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley over the weekend. The region has been blanketed in smoke from wildfires burning southeast of Chilliwack and Hope, as well as other fires south of the border in Washington and Oregon, causing high concentrations of fine particulate matter.

"While yesterday afternoon’s Environment Canada special air quality statement has predicted that we should see clearing trends through today and tomorrow, we also know that smoke concentrations may shift and vary as the conditions and fires continue to change," the school district message said. "Our district will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that our schools continue to be safe environments for both students and staff."

The New Westminster school district plans to use the following strategies, as needed, to limit smoke exposure:

  • allowing students who are sensitive to the smoke to remain indoors during lunch or other breaks;
  • closing exterior doors and windows where needed, utilizing filtered ventilation systems at maximum capacity to provide the cleanest air possible;
  • rescheduling outdoor activities, particularly for strenuous activities like PE; and
  • closely monitoring students with asthma or other breathing conditions.

Students or staff with pre-existing medical conditions should take extra precautions until the Air Quality Health Index has improved.

Parents and caregivers are asked to ensure that all students have water bottles and are well hydrated, as drinking lots of water is recommended by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control as a one way to protect yourself against the possible impacts of wildfire smoke.

How to keep an eye on the air quality in Metro Vancouver

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