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To: Portland Public Schools

Portland Public Schools: Suspend classes during the air quality crisis

Portland Public Schools: Suspend classes during the air quality crisis

Suspend remote classes until air quality returns to below-200 AQI levels.

Why is this important?

As residents of a severely fire-affected region in Oregon, we are concerned that transitioning work to online during the pandemic crisis is enabling some incredibly irresponsible behavior from schools, agencies, and employers during this absolutely unreal forest fire crisis.

The fact that some families can work from home does not make it a reasonable expectation for students and employees to work from home when the air quality is in the hazardous zone. ALL activities that are not essential for basic infrastructure and survival should have been shut down. There is no excuse for school, even online school, to be open today; it is irresponsible.

We are ALL emotionally, intellectually, and physically impaired right now. PPS needs to halt classes IMMEDIATELY until air quality improves. According to NASA the ground-level carbon monoxide concentration in this region reached OVER 126,000 PPB this weekend. Other days, the CO concentration was recorded as high as 86,000 ppb. Obviously, these concentrations are not sustained for prolonged periods at ground level, but these are shockingly, horrifying above unsafe concentrations, which OSHA identifies as as above 50 ppm (50,000 ppb). We are certainly breathing sustained elevated concentrations down here on the ground, and what it means is that even those of us with robust respiratory systems that are not sensitive to the high levels of particulate matter in the air are suffering from chronic low-key oxygen deprivation.

Feel like you can't think? Have no energy? Can't stay awake? That's why.

Teachers need to be supported in order to support students. Their health and well-being matters, as well as that of the greater community. There can be no such thing as “getting behind”, when the neurological capacity for growth and learning are limited due to the nature of the current environment. Teaching to the ideal conditions is a fool’s measure; we must adapt to the conditions that exist. Just as you close schools for unprecedented weather systems that disrupt daily activities, it is appropriate to close schools for unprecedented environmental health threats that disrupt daily activities. Students, teachers, and staff need to focus on health, safety, and self-care during these hazardous air quality days.

We cannot evacuate Portland; there is literally nowhere for Portland to go. But we are facing unprecedented and unelucidated health risks, and that PPS is expecting employees and learners to proceed as if it were business as usual is absolutely irresponsible, negligent, and untenable. Please shut it down.

Sincerely,

Mxm Bloc

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Reasons for signing

  • Mental and physical health are more important than school.
  • Another example of how our countries leaders live in another reality and exploit the people by ignoring hazardous environments. Remember the news of air in parts of Southeast and North Portland (still) contains alarming levels of cadmium and arsenic. Like many Portlanders, my family is not naive to pollution. We do our part as citizens to keep our city green and sustainable. Now it's time to hold DEQ and our leaders more accountable.
  • I live in Clackamas county. I spent almost a week on alert to see if I would need to evacuate. I did not, but the chronic stress and the toxic air are impacting my ability to think and be the kind of teacher I need to be. Many of my students live in sub-standard or crowded housing. Testing to learn while breathing toxic air and under chronic stress is more than the brain can take.

Updates

2020-09-15 19:32:06 -0400

500 signatures reached

2020-09-14 21:23:00 -0400

100 signatures reached

2020-09-14 20:38:03 -0400

50 signatures reached

2020-09-14 20:08:11 -0400

25 signatures reached

2020-09-14 19:50:22 -0400

10 signatures reached

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