All outdoor after-school activities and outdoor lunches Wednesday have been canceled, announced New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks at Mayor Eric Adams’ update on the wildfire smoke and air quality Wednesday morning. Indoor after-school activities will still carry on, according to city administration.
The administration officially announced its decision to resume school for students and teachers late Tuesday evening. The current air quality health advisory was extended until noon on Thursday.
“We have directed all schools to keep students inside,” Banks said at Wednesday’s update. “We will be in further touch with our schools for tomorrow and the succeeding days. As we follow the direction of the public health (department) and the mayor’s office, we will keep our parents and our families informed.”
“The chancellor has canceled all outside events as an abundance of caution,” Adams said. “These recommendations may change. This is a moving situation and we will keep New Yorkers informed of any changes based on updated air quality conditions.”
Dr. Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Adams expressed firm guidance on outdoor activities: Just don’t risk it.
“Children may also be more susceptible due to poor air quality because their lungs are still developing,” Vasan said. “Our health guidance to all New Yorkers is to limit outdoor activity as much as possible.”
“All New Yorkers should limit outdoor activity to the greatest extent possible,” Adams said. “This is not the day to train for a marathon or to do an outside event with your children.”
Dr. Barbara Mann, a pulmonologist at Mount Sinai – National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute, told amNewYork Metro that closing schools, especially in light of all the school closures over the last few years, has to be taken very seriously. For now, Mann said keeping schools open won’t have a substantial impact on health.
“Whether they’re at home indoors or at school indoors, I think it’s reasonable to keep the schools open, assuming that the kids are going to be indoors,” Mann said.
Mann did point to certain steps for schools to mitigate any potential health risks, especially for vulnerable youth with respiratory or asthma conditions. These include not having any activities outside, keeping the windows shut, and having air filters running.
Governor Kathy Hochul also issued a statement supporting the city’s decision to cancel outdoor school activities this morning in response to the wildfire smoke and haze. Hochul pointed to air quality warnings that the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the State Department of Health have issued since Monday.
“I support their decisions and the decisions of other districts to suspend outdoor school activities and strongly urge those who have not yet done so to follow suit,” Hochul said.
There are two air purifiers in every classroom and Merv 13 filters within window AC units in applicable classroom units, according to the New York City Department of Education website.
Classroom air filters will be turned on in schools, according to an air quality alert sent by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine this morning.