Surrounded by wildfires, Northwest schools try to keep smoke out
Wildfire smoke is becoming the “new normal” for some parts of the Northwest. In central Washington, health officials are urging residents to keep their doors and windows closed and stay inside. Bad air has forced at least one school district to take some unusual measures to keep class in session.
The town of Cashmere is at the geographic center of Washington –- and about 8 miles from one of the state’s largest wildfires. Cashmere schools closed last week due to hazardous air, both inside and outside classrooms.
Now, school is back in session. With a few modifications.
“There’s a large enclosed area when you enter the front door. With plastic,” says Sean McKenna, the principal of Vale Elementary in Cashmere.
“You shut the door. And it’s all HEPA filter-cleansed air in this small area. And then you open a zipper. And that allows you into the building.”
The Cashmere district has also deployed 35 air cleaners on wheels and hired experts to monitor particulate levels. Recess and P.E. are now held inside.
One thing that couldn’t be saved: This Friday’s Homecoming game. That’s been postponed to October, when administrators hope the air will have cleared.
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