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Poor air quality forces kids inside for school recess

FILE - Smog covers Salt Lake City (Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Air quality concerns in the Salt Lake Valley continue to linger and there’s a growing concern about how it will impact kids at school. In fact, some schools are keeping students inside during recess because of poor conditions.

The Utah Department of Health has recommended that students stay inside for recess if the air quality index levels are at 150 or higher.

“Then, yeah, it’s time to keep all students indoors,” explained Ben Horsley, spokesperson for the Granite School District. “If it’s between that other certain range, then only kids with respiratory symptoms.”

According to the Department of Health, anything above 150 is unhealthy, while 100 to 150 can be unhealthy to certain sensitive groups. Current air quality conditions can always be found here.

Horsley points out that not every school in the district is experiencing the same conditions.

“So we might have a school on one end of the valley that’s experiencing a green day and one on the other side of the valley that’s experiencing a red,” he pointed out.

For the Salt Lake Valley, this isn’t a new problem.

“The first bad air quality day, my phone blows up,” Horsley said. “It’s parents wondering what are we going to do with the kids.”

He says Granite’s faculty members are advised to follow the health department’s recommendations, but ultimately they have the final call.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality reported Thursday that air quality in the valley was improving, albeit minimally. According to the DEQ, the most recent storm has simply spun around the air that is already here. It will take clean air with stronger winds to come in and clean things out. Forecasters say that should happen later this weekend.