All Los Rios campuses closed due to poor air quality

City College students walk to and from classes despite the unhealthy air quality resulting from Butte County’s Camp Fire. As of Wednesday afternoon, all classes within the Los Rios Community College District are closed through Sunday.
Phoenix Kanada |

After enduring days of smoke-filled air from the Camp Fire raging in Butte County and a series of campus-wide emails circulating among City College faculty Wednesday, district officials closed all colleges for the next four days.

A RAVE alert was sent throughout the district at 3:51 p.m., saying, “Regional air conditions have not improved as anticipated, so Los Rios colleges are canceling all classes effective immediately and through the end of the week.”

For two days faculty had questioned the wisdom of keeping City College open when Sacramento State and UC Davis had closed their campuses as of Tuesday, given the unhealthy levels of air quality in the region.

“Faculty and students have been asking me why we’re open when UC Davis and CSU Sacramento made the decision to close,” said Academic Senate President Gayle Pitman in the email chain. “In particular, students attending classes at the SCC Davis Center have commented that it’s odd that UC Davis canceled classes, but classes are still being held at the Davis Center. I’ve also heard a number of students say that it feels like the college doesn’t care about them. That’s far from the truth—we care deeply about our students—but that isn’t the message they’re getting.”

According to information on AIRNow,  a website that monitors and communicates air quality in real time, Wednesday’s reading reached an air quality index of 201—considered very unhealthy. AIRNow advised that people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors, adding that everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

“I’d like to recommend that the college and/or district consider canceling classes for the next day or two — in line with other local area colleges,” wrote City College sociology Professor Nicholas Miller in one email. “I’ve had several students contact me about their own air quality related health problems and/or a family member’s problems that are keeping them from class.  Several of my colleagues have reported similar experiences. While class time is very precious, I wonder if holding classes is actually a disservice to our students this week.”

However, not all faculty agreed that the college should close.

“Just to play devil’s advocate here for a minute, but what difference does it make if our students are indoors at school, or indoors at home? Air quality is lousy throughout the region and cancelling classes will not change that reality,” chemistry Professor Bruce Zenner wrote in the faculty email chain.

Before the closure was announced Wednesday, masks were being passed out at the City College Health center in an effort to mitigate smoke exposure. Students were seen wearing masks and covering their mouths with scarves or their sleeves as they quickly shuffled between classes.

By late afternoon Wednesday, large numbers of people were seen leaving campus, having received word about the closure.

“RAVE alerts should have just gone out about classes being canceled,” said City College Public Information Officer Kaitlyn MacGregor. “They will be canceled through Sunday, so we’re trying to make sure everybody knows that Saturday classes are canceled, as well as Thursday and Friday. The campus itself will be closed as well.”


Originally published at

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