The Transylvania Times -

County Schools Respond To Poor Air Quality – Transylvania County NC


Last updated 11/21/2016 at 6:14pm

Students in Ms. Miller's class at Rosman Elementary play board games for a break from regular instruction. (Photos courtesy of Transylvania County Schools)

Air filled with smoke from wildfires in the region didn't just obscure the mountain views in Transylvania County.

As a precautionary measure, it also kept students indoors for the first two days of school last week.

Starting Monday morning, Nov. 14, Transylvania County Schools temporarily halted outdoor activities in schools based on guidance from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Transylvania Public Health.

The DEQ website,, contains relevant information including the daily air quality forecast, also available at

Because of the accumulation of smoke coming from wildfires in the region, the air quality forecast was "Code Red" for Monday and Tuesday.

The Air Quality Index is based on the highest levels of pollutants expected to be in the air throughout the day, which can include ground-level ozone or particles such as smoke.

Schools responded by taking precautions that included canceling outdoor recess during the first two days of the week, and paying close attention to students with health plans that include monitoring for respiratory problems.

Code Red means the air at its worst for a given day is expected to be "unhealthy" for the general population.

This condition ranks fourth out of five possible ranges on the DEQ scale, also called the "Air Quality Color Guide."

Guidance from DEQ under a condition of Code Red states that "Children, active people, older adults, and those with heart or lung disease (like asthma) should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else: limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors."

For Wednesday, the forecast moved to Code Orange, which ranks third out of five possible forecast ranges. Under Code Orange, the air is forecast to be "unhealthy for sensitive groups."

Dancing was a frequent indoor activity to stretch the muscles during a Code Red air quality warning this week. A happy crew of staff and students move to the beat at Davidson River School.

DEQ recommendations state that, "Children, active people, older adults, and those with heart or lung disease (like asthma) should limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors."

On Wednesday, students returned outside for moderate activities with continued monitoring of all students, including those with health plans that address respiratory issues.

"We want to thank our liaison with Transylvania Public Health, Tara Rybka, for helping us to be aware of the situation and keeping the community informed throughout this crisis," said Safe Schools Director Alan Justice.

"Tara contacted us proactively on Sunday night. With that lead time and her guidance about what poor Air Quality Index could mean for students, we were well prepared with coordinated plans that insured the safety of all our students and staff," he said.

For more information from the TCS Department of Safe Schools, contact Alan Justice at 885-7400 or


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