School launches air quality program

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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When a green flag flies high over Rocklin Elementary, students and residents know they’ll breathe a little easier that day. That’s because a green flag means the air quality is good, which means recess, physical education and sporting events are safe to be played outdoors. But when students hoist a purple flag on the pole, it means outdoor activities should be moved inside due to a very unhealthy air quality level. Every morning, Rocklin Elementary students will log on to, research the day’s predicted air quality and raise a colored flag that it represents. “It’s an opportunity for students to have a better awareness of our air quality and protecting our environment,” said fourth-grade teacher Amanda Makis. Makis is also the Rocklin Unified’s service learning coordinator and spearheaded this effort at Rocklin Elementary. Friday’s launch of this School Based Air Quality Flag Program at Rocklin Elementary was a first for Placer County this year. The program is part of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails’ effort to help protect the lungs of active children. Depending on the air quality level and flag color, schools then can modify their outdoor activities to protect students’ health. Inside the school’s gymnasium, students gathered Friday for the program’s launch and introduction. “This is a very important day for California, for Rocklin and for the air we breathe,” Rocklin Elementary Principal Jim Trimble told students. “It’s very important to be aware of the quality of the air that we breathe.” Each flag represents how much outdoor activity children should partake in. Shellie Willetts, program manager for Breathe California, told students how important good air quality is. “All of your lungs are very important,” she said. Carpooling, riding bikes and planting trees are all effective ways to ensure more green-flag days, she said. The program, which costs $1,450 per school, is at no-cost to the district and is funded through a grant, Makis said. Rocklin Elementary was the first Placer County school to implement the program this year. Also this year, Sunset Ranch, also in Rocklin, and Coyote Ridge Elementary in Roseville, will follow. Three Sacramento Country elementary schools will also participate in the program this year as well. On Friday, as students raised the flag up the pole, it was a green-flag day, which gave the thumbs up for outdoor recreation.