MCPS cancels after-school activities over poor air quality, safety measures added to senior graduation


Photo courtesy Clean Air Partners

Air quality in southern Maryland reached “unhealthy” levels today and is expected to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups” tomorrow, according to a weather forecast from Clean Air Partners.

By Zach Jaffe

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) notified all schools in the county to cancel after-school activities and recess and limit outdoor athletic activities on June 7 and June 8 over air quality concerns, officials wrote in an email to parents this morning. They also notified parents that field trips and outdoor graduations may be rescheduled.

Air pollution from wildfires in the Canadian province of Quebec is traveling southwards into the Northeastern United States and bringing dangerous particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) into the atmosphere. PM2.5 can infiltrate the lungs and bloodstream, causing irritation, shortness of breath and infection, and can pose serious risks to those with preexisting heart or lung conditions. 

Junior Daniel Lipsitz rides his bike home from school every day and was bothered by the air pollution.

“I wore a mask biking home just to be on the safe side,” Lipsitz said, “But I was still coughing and it smelled like gas and rotten eggs.” 

MCPS recommended that “individuals in sensitive groups shorten their time spent outdoors and avoid strenuous activity” in the email to parents. MCPS also encouraged community members to wear N-95 masks, keep windows and doors closed and run air filters in order to reduce particulate exposure.

In response to the dangerous air quality, Whitman will implement safety measures for the senior graduation tomorrow instead of canceling the event. Ticketed guests can choose to watch a livestream of the event in the auditorium, and health providers, police and MCPS security will be on standby to help those in need, Dr. Dodd wrote in an email to the Whitman community.

Lipsitz was grateful that after-school activities were canceled but is hesitant on whether or not letting seniors have their graduation outside tomorrow is healthy.

“It’s good that the school canceled all after-school activities and there’s medical professionals during graduation, but I still don’t think it’s very safe for the seniors out in all that smog,” Lipsitz said. “I guess it all depends on how the conditions are tomorrow.”