Smoke forces light activity

GLENDALE — Schools canceled outdoor activities because of poor air quality Monday in Glendale and Burbank, sending physical education classes and playoff football teams indoors.

Although local districts didn’t instruct schools to stop all outdoor activities, they did encourage principals to keep kids inside after the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued an advisory urging people to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure across the Los Angeles area as fires continued to burn.

Each school will continue to make decisions about outdoor activity on a day-to-day basis as the air quality district monitors conditions, officials said.

”We always try to err on the side of being conservative,” Glendale Unified School District Supt. Michael Escalante said, explaining that the district was encouraging caution to ensure the health and safety of its students, even though some areas in La Crescenta seemed cleaner than others in south Glendale.

In Burbank, administrators didn’t need an e-mail alert to measure the air quality.

“You can smell the smoke in the air,” said Emilio Urioste, the principal at John Burroughs High School, who canceled all sports outdoors even though the school’s football team has a playoff game this week.

“I’m feeling it the most I’ve ever felt it, actually,” said Urioste, adding that he was feeling chest discomfort while talking.

While some schools shut down all outdoor activities, others allowed students moderate activity outside.

“We recognize that they need to be moving around,” said Rebeca Witt, principal of Mountain Avenue Elementary School. “So we allow them to walk, but certainly not run or to the point where they’re going to be doing any heavy breathing.”

Administrators had identified students with respiratory problems and arranged indoor activities for them during recesses, Witt said, and physical education classes were being conducted indoors.

“I’m OK with it,” said fourth-grader Noble LeDuc who was participating in his second PE class that had been forced indoors because of poor air quality. “Because I think it’s because of the air quality, and I do not want to get sick or anything.”

Cerritos Elementary School switched to a rainy-day schedule because of the fires, keeping students indoors during lunch and recess to play heads-up-seven-up and other indoor games, Principal Janice Hanada said.

“It doesn’t seem as bad as it was yesterday, but you can see that we’re sucked into the smoke,” Hanada said.

Crescenta Valley High School football players spent the afternoon doing a walk-through in the gym rather than practicing outside in preparation for their first playoff game since 2005.

While Coach Tony Zarrillo wanted to conduct practice outside, he said going indoors wouldn’t hurt the team, adding that it was probably the safest thing to do.

Although players were excited about their upcoming playoff matchup, they agreed with the decision to be careful.

“I think it’s better practicing all-out, with pads,” 15-year-old sophomore Daidai McFadden said. “But it’s for the best.”

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