The School Flag Program alerts schools to the local air quality forecast and helps them to take actions to protect students' health, especially those with asthma. Each day the school raises a flag that corresponds to how clean or polluted the air is. During wildfires, when the local air agency issues smoke advisories, the corresponding flag can alert students and the community about how safe the air is to breathe. The color of the flag matches the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index (AQI): green, yellow, orange, red, and purple.
On unhealthy days, schools can use this information to adjust physical activities to help reduce exposure to air pollution, while still keeping students active. During wildfires, members of the school and the surrounding community can adjust their activities accordingly to reduce their exposure to smoke and particle pollution. Regular physical activity – at least 60 minutes a day – promotes health and fitness. The purpose of the school flag program is to help children continue to exercise while protecting their health when the air quality is unhealthy or when a smoke advisory is in effect.
MDAQMD launched its local School Flag Program in 2017. Maple Elementary School in Hesperia was selected as the program's pilot location due to its proximity to the Cajon Pass, a major corridor for the transporting of air pollution from the South Coast Basin. Maple Elementary is also located between the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains, and can be directly impacted by wildfire smoke. Smog season officially begins on May 1st and runs through the end of October.
The School Flag Program is available to any school located within MDAQMD’s boundaries (which consists of the High Desert portion of San Bernardino County and the Palo Verde Valley of Riverside County). The MDAQMD will provide qualifying school sites with a set of (5) School Flags, Coordinators Handbook, training, and resources to AIRNow’s School Flag Program which provides student activities and educates staff, students, parents, and surrounding community about the program.
Applying to participate in the program is simple: Send an email to Communications Supervisor Ryan Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org and include "School Flag Program" in the subject line.
Maple Elementary, Hesperia (Hesperia Unified School District)
Melva Davis Academy of Excellence, Victorville (Adelanto Elementary School District)
Ralph Baker 21st Century Learning Center, Victorville (Victor Elementary School District)
Brentwood Elementary, Victorville (Victor Elementary School District)