Tuolumne County public schools will remain closed at least through Friday due to unhealthy smoke from the Rim Fire, said Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Joe Silva.
The closures, announced Tuesday afternoon, were recommended by the Rim Fire Incident Command, the Tuolumne County Public Health Department and the Tuolumne County Air Pollution Control District.
“For us, it was common sense that you don’t have school, with the (air) contaminants as high as they were,” Silva said.
The closures also include Regional Occupational Programs, or ROPs, such as the cosmetology program run by Sonora Union High School District.
Silva said school officials will reassess the situation on Monday, which is already school-free for Labor Day.
Columbia College’s main Sonora campus will be closed through Friday, with classes now scheduled to start Tuesday.
Columbia College’s first day of fall classes on Aug. 26 were cancelled.
Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District had been scheduled to start its school year Aug. 20, but cancelled at that time due to smoke and the threat posed by fast-moving fire.
In fact, the first day of classes for students at Tioga High School, Tenaya Elementary School and Don Pedro High School has yet to occur.
Big Oak Flat-Groveland Superintendent Dave Urquhart said that while students may have enjoyed having one or two extra days of summer break, they are likely ready to start now.
“There are a lot of students that are anxious about school,” Urquhart said. “We’re looking forward to starting, but we want to make sure that everyone is safe when we actually open.
“I think most people are concerned more about the fire and what’s going on with that than anything else,” he said.
Sonora High School released students at 12:30 p.m. on Friday to free up school buses that could be used for evacuees, part of Tuolumne County’s emergency transportation plan.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the county hadn’t used the buses yet, said Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Mike McCoy.
It remained unclear Tuesday how local schools would compensate for the loss of teaching time this week or whether their state funding, based on student attendance, would be affected.
Silva said he had been in touch with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson about “what our options are.”
“We’re going to address that question when we’re back in school, because we don’t know how long we’re gonna be out,” Silva said.