For the 71 students attending Joel Hidahl Elementary School with asthma, an internet website and smart phone app could mean the difference in breathing well or not at all.
At an assembly at the Ceres school last week, students were told how the RAAN, or the Real-Time Air Advisory Network, is helping to protect their health. The tool is offered to the public free of charge by the San Joaquin Valley Air District. It hourly reports air quality through a variety of monitoring stations located throughout the Valley. RAAN measures ozone and Fine Particulate Matter. If air quality is classified as bad, some people with health issues are advised to stay indoors.
RAAN is better than the air quality flags which some schools continue to fly to indicate forecasts for air quality on any given day.
"We are retiring that program in favor of schools using real time air pollution information which is much more health protective and accurate," said Presto.
The RAAN website is located online at Valleyair.org with the downloadable app.
Hidahl School Principal Vaughn Williams said his school keeps health-sensitive students indoors during recesses.
"On really bad days our P.E. teachers are instructed to keep students inside," said Williams. "Programs like this encourage schools to take action on bad quality. It makes the school proactive and avoids many children having asthma attacks on campus."
"We're trying to educate kids because they're our future," said Anthony Presto of the San Joaquin Valley Air District. "It's so important that they understand this issue of air pollution which affects everyone's health. One of the main issues is we want to reduce their exposure to air pollution and that's what Healthy Air Living Schools sets out to do."
The assembly presented things that can be done to help prevent pollution by giving the message to parents to:
• Not idle the car engine during pickup at school;
• Switch to a hybrid or electric car;
• Use a rake or electric lawnmower;
• Barbecue with propane or natural gas;
• Drive less.
Presto said the district seeks to educate young people because "they're going to be consumers buying electric vehicles, they're going to be city council and county supervisors passing ordinances, and maybe managers of businesses that encourage employees to carpool. Educating them now about how important this is, is going to lead them on a path to make a bigger difference than is being made today. We are always looking for different ways and more ways to clean our valley's air."
The Healthy Air Living Schools program is not brand-new, said Presto, but is slowly making its rounds to the 5,000 schools throughout the eight-county area covered by the district.
The event helped to plug the annual Healthy Air Living Kids Calendar contest with its Oct. 3 entry deadline.
"I am glad that our school's participating as a school in the district for Healthy Air Living Schools," said Natalia Armas-Perez, the school's social coordinator.