Fifth and sixth graders at Brown Elementary School received an air quality lesson on Thursday as part of the Healthy Air Living Schools Program, which has been adopted by Turlock Unified School District to prioritize student health and safety.
A number of students, however, did not need the morning lesson to understand the harmful effects of air pollution.
“Not only is air pollution affecting humans and animals but it is affecting the plants and as I recall the plants give us air. If there is a lot of pollution, then we would be losing our air as well,” said sixth grader Rocco Perez. “So please stop smoking and littering because even the smallest things have the biggest impacts.”
Turlock Unified School District was awarded a $1,400 grant to implement the Healthy Air Living Schools Program, which is a multipronged outreach effort that offers support and tools to help Valley schools make informed decisions about outdoor activities in relation to air quality. The funding can be used to support Health Air Quality Education projects, including awareness posters, books or computer programs, and signs that alert parents to not let cars idle.
“We are so happy that the whole Turlock school district is involved in Healthy Air Living Schools,” said San Joaquin Valley Air District Outreach and Communications Representative Anthony Presto. “There is nothing more important than protecting public health, especially the health of children whose lungs are still developing.”
“TUSD as a district is doing its part to protect our students’ health and safety,” added TUSD Director of Student Services Gil Ogden.
The Health Air Living Schools Program is made up of two components: the Real-Time Air Advisory Network and the NO Idling campaign. With the most up-to-date hourly air quality information from the nearest air monitor, RAAN helps schools and individuals make decisions on whether it is acceptable for outdoor activities by classifying current air quality levels.
These five designations range from Level 1 (Green), which has no restrictions, to Level 5 (Purple), which is assigned to air quality that is considered hazardous. Everyone should avoid outdoor activity when air quality levels are at Level 5.
“Our job is to make sure that we monitor the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week for everyone who lives in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Gustine Mayor and Valley Air District Board Member Dennis Brazil. “Our air is very, very critical to all of us.”
The NO Idling campaign encourages students to talk to their parents about the hazards of idling vehicles. Among other adverse effects, engines left idling pump a large amount of harmful pollution into the air, which poses a threat to student health, and can affect asthma and various long-term health effects.
“The message is simple: While you wait for your child, please turn off your engine,” the Healthy Air Living Schools program website states. “Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.”
For more information on the Healthy Air Living Schools Program, visit healthyairliving.com/your-school/halschoolsprogram.htm.