US and MS campuses affected by nearby fires

CMYK allieeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!
Eighth graders eat lunch together in the Hazy building, avoiding the smoky air outside. The LA Fires caused air quality to drop drastically and as a result students were directed to eat inside for several days on end.

By Tessa Augsberger ’22 and Maddie Morrison ’22

School was closed on Dec. 6-7 due to the fires in Los Angeles. The school took precautions to ensure the safety of the students, faculty, staff and their families.

There were multiple fires in the region, dubbed according to region or affiliation: The largest fire was (and continues to be) the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, where an estimated 281,900 acres burned, making it the largest fire by size in California history. The Creek Fire in Sylmar was not quite as destructive as the Thomas Fire, but it still caused major damage, killing 29 horses in padlocked stalls.The fire with the closest proximity to both campuses, however, was the Skirball Fire in west Los Angeles. It destroyed six homes in the area and damaged 12 others.

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The school posts an Air Quality Advisory sign outside the seventh grade lounge after the LA Fires. Because of the low air quality, school was canceled for two days in a row.

The Skirball Fire began on the night of Dec. 4 and quickly spread due to the Santa Ana winds with gusts of up to 90 mph. The fires forced thousands to evacuate including many members of the school community.

Gisele Stigi ’22 was one of the students affected by the Skirball Fire.

“Thankfully, my actual house was completely okay, but there were several houses on my street that burned down or at least were severely damaged,” Stigi said.

Stigi was evacuated for five days, including the Friday that both campuses reopened.

The school’s closing also affected the December testing calendar. Tests were moved to that Friday and into the following week. Additionally, teachers were permitted to remove regular X periods scheduled to take place during the following week to make up for class time lost during the two days school was cancelled.

Students with medical conditions that could affect their breathing were reached out to by Attendance & Health Coordinator Brenda Simon in order to determine if they were to go home or wear a mask due to the bad air quality.

“All students with illnesses or anything that may compromise their breathing were counseled individually and given special instructions,” Simon said.

On Dec.  5, students were instructed to remain inside during all free periods or lunch periods. Classrooms and lounge spaces for all grades in Hazy and Wang Hall were opened for students to eat in during lunch periods with teacher supervision.

“At some points I wasn’t completely comfortable going outside from class to class because of all the smoke and ash that was in the air. Also, by my locker there was a lot of ash on the ground. But otherwise, I think [the school] took the right amount of precautions,” Isa Sylbert ’22 said.

As the fires continued into Wednesday and Thursday of that same week, all middle and upper school sports, classes, and activities were cancelled, but were reopened on Friday.

 

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