Schools in northern Santa Barbara County will be closed Monday due to unhealthy air quality resulting from the Thomas fire, which now has burned more than 200,00 acres and is threatening communities in the southern part of the county.
As a result of fire conditions, superintendents from the following Santa Maria Valley districts have cancelled school Monday: Santa Maria-Bonita, Santa Maria Joint Union High School, Orcutt Union and Guadalupe.
Also cancelled are Lompoc, Ballard, Buellton, College, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Solvang and Vista del Mar school districts.
Private schools St. Joseph High School and St. Mary of the Assumption School, along with its preschool, also will be closed Monday, according to official announcements Sunday night.
Classes will continue at Hancock College on Monday at the college's Santa Maria campus and Lompoc Valley Center to accommodate final exams, said a spokesman. Precautions will be taken, though, and face masks will be available to students, faculty and staff at both locations.
The college's Santa Ynez Valley Center will be closed Monday because the high school has canceled classes. As a result, the two final exams scheduled for Monday evening at the Santa Ynez Valley Center now will take place in the Route 246 Ballroom at the Corque Hotel, 400 Alisal Road in Solvang. Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. and the exams will begin at 6 p.m.
Staff in most elementary and high school districts are being advised to stay home, according to Kenny Klein, spokesman for the Santa Maria Join Union High School District.
Some staff members in the Lompoc district are being asked to report for duty Monday.
According to a statement released Sunday by Lompoc Unified School District, "Essential personnel who should report (Monday) include: all Grounds, Custodial and Maintenance staff who will assist in assessing safety issues at all facilities." Employees with questions are encouraged to contact their immediate supervisor.
Trevor McDonald, the superintendent for Lompoc Unified School District, said Sunday evening that district officials are "monitoring the situation on a minute-by-minute basis."
"The safety of all students and all staff is at the forefront of the LUSD functions," McDonald said. "We want to thank the LUSD community for the support of all children."
LUSD officials said they anticipate resuming a normal schedule Tuesday after implementing a reopening plan that includes "cleaning ash, (and) assessing our interior hallways and classrooms."
Schools in Lucia Mar Unified School District will remain open Monday, according to a district spokeswoman, but will operate on a rainy day schedule to limit exposure to the air.
The decline in air quality is largely driven by an increase in fine particulate matter and rising levels of large particulate matter — mainly ash — carried from the fire by upper level winds.
Check back for updates on this developing story.