Wildfire Smoke Prompts VTA to Offer Free Rides; South Bay Public Schools Remain in Session

Wildfire smoke continues to blanket more than half of California, with some spots registering some of the most polluted air on the planet. In some pockets of San Jose Friday, the Air Quality Index exceeded 200, considered “very unhealthy,” while the South Bay average hovered around 185.

For the latest air-quality reading, go to airnow.gov.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is offering free rides all day Friday in hopes of reducing vehicle emissions from solo drivers and giving pedestrians and cyclists a way to get around without inhaling toxic air. Passengers will not need to show proof of purchase or swipe a Clipper Card to board buses or the light rail. Personalized trip plans are available at vta.org.

As we reported on Thursday, most private schools, community colleges and public universities in the South Bay called off classes for the rest of the week. Most K-12 public schools, however, remained in session as directed by the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). In response to concerns from residents about sending their kids to school in the thick of hazardous air, SCCOE Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan scheduled a press conference alongside the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health.

Though public K-12 schools continued as scheduled—albeit while keeping everyone inside as much as possible—Dewan said families can request an excused absence if they chose to keep their kids home for the day.

Dewan said the decision to keep the schools open today had nothing to do with the public school system’s attendance-based funding for some campuses. Rather, she said, it was made because so many families rely on the safety and consistency of public schools. For many children, going to school today offers them a secure place to avoid outside air exposure. Twenty-seven of the county’s 31 public school districts chose to continue classes as scheduled.

To watch the live-streamed SCCOE press conference, see below.

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