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Hapgood School student Zakary Serbanich, 8, wears a breathing mask as he plays at the Lompoc Boys & Girls Club on Tuesday morning. Lompoc Unified Schools were closed because of poor air quality from the Thomas fire.

After two days of school closures due to the poor air quality brought on by the Thomas fire, Lompoc Unified School District officials announced Tuesday that they would be canceling classes for the remainder of the week and immediately moving into the district’s winter break.

With the closures now in effect, classes are set to resume on Jan. 8.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances due to the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara County, LUSD has made the difficult decision to remain closed,” read a portion of a statement released by LUSD officials on Tuesday afternoon. “LUSD has continued to closely monitor the air quality on an hourly basis and conditions in Lompoc remain unhealthy for students and staff. Due to health and safety concerns, we have determined that all students will not be allowed on LUSD campuses this week.”

Due to the closures, LUSD officials said that secondary students will not be required to take final exams for any classes in the fall semester. Early Tuesday afternoon, district leaders said that all students would be assessed an "A" grade for final exams this week, but district officials retracted that statement Tuesday evening and clarified that the exams would simply be canceled.

"This will relieve the stress and anxiety associated with an extended final period and allow our spring semester to commence as planned," the district reported.

In light of the cancellations: 

  • The fall semester grading window will remain open through Jan. 10;
  • Any assignments/projects that were due this week will be accepted until Jan. 10;
  • Official sports and extracurricular eligibility lists will be posted on Jan. 15; and
  • Students who are currently ineligible for sports or extracurricular activities due to academics will remain ineligible until Jan. 15.

Due to schools being closed, about 40 Lompoc children spent much of their day Tuesday at the Lompoc Boys and Girls Club. Others were at the Lompoc Family YMCA. Both facilities have continued to offer childcare services after the schools were unexpectedly shuttered.

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The Thomas fire, which started Dec. 4 in Ventura County, had grown to 234,200 acres as of Tuesday morning and moved into southern Santa Barbara County. The fire had destroyed 794 structures and was threatening 18,000 more.

The air quality in Lompoc has remained poor since last week, with heavy smoke and ash falling throughout the Lompoc Valley. Residents are encouraged by county health officials to protect themselves with N95 breathing masks, which have been distributed locally by health agencies since the weekend.

Volunteers have given them out in front of The Home Depot in Lompoc since Sunday, and the masks have also been available at several area health clinics.

Although schools will be closed through the winter break, district officials noted that some essential personnel may be required to report to work. Those employees will be contacted individually, the district reported.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.