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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Poor air quality causes Los Rios campus closures

Grey, smoky sky above City College football stadium. Air pollution from nearby fires has caused the need for campus closures district wide. (Express photo)

Fires in Northern California have ravaged several hundred thousand acres following record high temperatures and dry conditions for several days, dusting vehicles throughout Sacramento with a layer of white, delicate soot and coating spider webs attached to trees and fences along the city’s streets with snowy confetti.

City College was not immune to the effects of the regional fires. The Los Rios RAVE alert system announced Aug. 20 to all enrolled students that all campuses were closed due to the poor air conditions.

All campuses in the Los Rios district shut down in mid-March as shelter-in-place orders due to the spread of COVID-19 went into effect. Since then, campuses have had limited operations, according to City College Public Information Officer Kaitlyn MacGregor.

The district last closed all campus access in fall 2018 when wildfires spread quickly in multiple parts of the state, MacGregor said.

“We had campus closures close to Thanksgiving break [that year],” said MacGregor, recalling the last time air quality became an issue of public safety. “We sent people home then. That caused us to re-establish guidelines of when we should do campus closures.”

MacGregor said in recent weeks there has been some activity at City College to provide students with laptops before classes start online Aug. 22.

“Laptop distribution and pickups were happening on campus, so there were staff there facilitating that,” said MacGregor, adding that some faculty were also safely allowed to access their offices and classrooms in an organized fashion. “There’s a form they complete before visiting to pick up equipment they might need for the upcoming semester.”

Some classes will take place on campus, MacGregor said. Districtwide training programs for first responders have been approved to hold in-person classes. Students enrolled in these programs may see their first class sessions affected by continued campus closures if air quality continues to deteriorate.

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According to, the AQI or air quality index, measures pollutant particulates. That site listed a higher estimated AQI over the coming weekend.

“We do have classes starting on ground starting Monday for the first responder training programs,” MacGregor said. “Most of those programs are held in a lab space, so it gives them flexibility and space to be safely socially distanced. There’s an alert to those students that they should continue to check in as the problem progresses.”

MacGregor encouraged students and staff to monitor social media feeds as well as campus and district websites for updates and information on campus closures.

“There are so many fires, it’s unlikely this will clear up immediately,” MacGregor said. “There will continue to be conversations with campus presidents, the chancellor, and different administrators as to whether or not additional action will need to be taken. For the time being we’re monitoring to see how this is going to go.”

AirNow, a site that tracks air quality trends and predictions:

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources fire tracker:

Los Rios district guidelines on when air quality should interrupt campus activity:

Los Rios Twitter feed:

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