Elementary School administrators are keeping a close eye on Salt Lake County’s air quality this week. New and slightly stricter guidelines from the Utah Department of Health could mean a little less recess time this winter.
The Utah recess guidelines state clearly when students should stay indoors during recess because of bad air. It all comes down to particulate matter levels or PM 2.5.
Brittany Guerra of the Utah Asthma Program says schools used to let kids play outside with levels up to 90. “It’s now lowered to 55.4 which is right when the red starts," she says.
If the air quality is red or purple, all students stay inside.
“But in the past five years we haven’t had a lot of days in the red or purple," says Guerra.
The new guidelines might mean two more indoor days compared to an average school year.
Principals like Michael Douglas at Howard Driggs Elementary in Holladay are prepared. Each morning and night Douglas checks a Utah Air app on his phone.
Orange days are usually more frequent than red days. And on orange days the recess guidelines says students with sensitivities like asthma should stay inside.
Douglas says his students have been understanding, no tantrums yet. Although he wouldn’t wish indoor recess on anyone.
“It’s not popular with the students and it's not popular with the teachers," Douglas says. "But when it comes to a kiddo who’s got health issues that takes precedence.”
Salt Lake’s air quality is expected to improve by the end of the week. Forecasted storms could bring current orange levels to green by Friday.