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Bakersfield City School District has a system in place for outdoor, indoor recess

KBAK/KBFX photo

Concerned parents in the Bakersfield City School District approached Eyewitness News about children playing outside during this heat wave.

Debbie Wood, coordinator of School Health and Neighborhood Support Programs, wakes up and checks the weather for the day, determining what the recess schedule will be like for district students.

"Sometime between 3 and 4 a.m., I send out a message to all district employees that says like yesterday was extreme heat, please drink lots of water, stay in the shade, limit your time outdoor in the sun. And below that is the air quality. So yesterday was an orange day, which means only those children and adults sensitive groups like asthmatics, heart conditions, things like that, would limit their recess," said Wood.

However, some parents say all students need to be taken into consideration when temperatures reach the triple-digit mark.

"Regardless of what health conditions, they shouldn't be playing outside in this heat," said a parent.

The district has a system that has been in place for more than 15 years that is based on colored flags.

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This is from the Bakersfield City School District School Handbook:

Air Quality Index Levels and Restrictions of Physical Activities

Health Advisory -- 101-150 Air Quality Index (AQI) Unhealthy for Sensitive Group (Orange Level)

Susceptible individuals, especially those with heart or lung disease should limit physical activity beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Everyone, including healthy adults and students should curtail prolonged vigorous exercise.

Physical education instruction and recess activities shall be modified, to curtail prolonged vigorous exercise if the AQI readings are in this range and the temperature exceeds 90 degrees.

Prolonged vigorous activity means to engage, more than briefly, in physical activity that would increase the heart rate to a moderate range. Illustrations of acceptable and unacceptable physical activity are provided below.

Students may: Walk, Bars, Hula Hoops, Swings (K, 1, 2, 3), 4 square, Kick back (kicking the ball back and forth), Catch

Students in the sensitive group may NOT, and all other students may not, except for briefly: Jump rope, Run (to include):Basketball game/running, Soccer Games/ running, Dodge ball/ running, Tag/running

Health Advisory -- 151-200 AQI Unhealthy (Red Level)

Outdoor physical activity is limited for all students and staff as described below. Take extra precautions with those students and staff with known heart and lung conditions such as asthma. All students and staff are to refrain from all vigorous and strenuous outdoor activities2 which will increase the respiratory rate of participants. This includes physical activities that occur during: (1) physical education instruction; (2) recess periods; (3) before school and after school activities, and (4) noon-hour activities.

Students and staff with special health problems shall follow any additional precautions recommended in writing by their physicians.

If an “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” Level is currently in effect at the time that an after school game, event, or practice is scheduled to begin, that activity shall be postponed.

Vigorous and strenuous physical activity means those actions that increase the respiratory rates of participants. Illustrations of acceptable and unacceptable activity are provided below.

Students may: Walk, Bars, Hula Hoops, Swings (K, 1, 2, 3), 4 square, Kick back (kicking the ball back and forth), Catch

Students in the sensitive group may NOT: Jump rope, Run (to include): Basketball game/running, Soccer Games/ running, Dodge ball/ running, Tag/running

Health Advisory -- 200-300 AQI -- VERY Unhealthful (Purple Level)

All students and staff at every school level shall remain indoors and keep all physical activity to a minimum. Exceptions to the indoor restriction include lunch, restroom and water breaks, and walking to scheduled classes.

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Eyewitness News discovered for three days in a row in June temperatures reached 110 degrees, but only an orange flag was lifted because the air quality was between 101-150.

Again on Aug. 18, 19, 25 and 28, even though temperatures climbed above 100-degrees as a daytime high, an orange flag was flown, meaning children were still allowed outside, only those with respiratory problems and heart problems were asked to reduce their time spent on certain activities.

Although, children had only a morning recess on Monday, August 28, students told Eyewitness News they were still hot even during morning recess.

"But, at 10 o'clock in the morning when children could go out for recess it hadn't reached that 100-degree mark yet, it was only 98...That's why we encourage them to bring clear water and they can keep it on their desk. We don't want any sugar drinks because that will make them more dehydrated and they can keep it on their desk, we want to drink from it all the time. We want employees drinking it all the time as well," said Wood.

Health officials with Kaiser Permanente say it's unsafe for children to be playing around in triple-digit heat.

"I really think once the temperature reaches 100 or above, we really need to be careful with kids playing outside," said Dr. Benjamin Ha, a family physician.

He said temperatures should be taken into consideration more often when planning the recess schedule.

"You combine the heat with the air quality and it's just not a good combination. I think it's really great to have kids active and playing, but really we need to be careful when temperatures are this hot," said Ha.

Wood said if there is a concerned parent they can always talk to a school official about their children playing in the heat.

"They can go to their principal and say, 'I really don't want my child to be outside when the temperature is over something and particularly if they have a medical condition,' such as a child that has seizures that can be caused by extreme heat," said Wood.

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