Ashland starts new school year, limiting some activities due to smoke

ASHLAND, Ore.– The Ashland School District is one of the first in our region to kick off the school year Wednesday.

But wildfire smoke has limited outside activities for some students.

The district opened the new Ashland Middle School, as well as the new Walker Elementary after bonds were passed for both projects last year.

ASD’s superintendent said they were able to install new ventilation systems in the new schools, just in time for the new school year.

Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove said, “they’ve always had HVAC systems but many of the systems were older and really over the last several years we’ve been upgrading those systems to deal with COVID and some of those pieces as well as fires and smoke.”

Bogdanove said they have been watching weather reports closely with unhealthy air covering much of the region.

He said they will cancel outdoor activities if the AQI is very unhealthy or hazardous, based on OHA guidelines.

“We follow their guidance around the amount of time teens can be outside given whatever the AQI is on that particular day or how long we can do recess or whether or not its too much smoke to go outside,” Bogdanove said.

The area’s largest district is scheduled to start school Monday.

Medford School District said it has a team of people that monitor weather conditions around the clock to make sure students are safe.

MSD’s Natalie Hurd said, “if we are in orange and we’re at 100 to 150 we can do outdoor activities, but we should try to reschedule if possible especially if those outdoor activities are a longer duration or are strenuous in nature.”

Hurd said the district collaborates with the OSAA to make decisions regarding smoke, especially with fall sports practices already beginning.

But when the AQI is 150 or higher, it will cancel all outdoor activities.

“This is such a bummer to be starting the school year in smoke,” Hurd said, “that becomes really troublesome particularly for the athletes and those kids that are involved in activities like band for example. Just trying to find places where we can practice.”

The Ashland School District said its still working on installing air conditioning in all of its buildings.

Medford School District said it has air conditioning in all of its schools.

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Former NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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