Local Parents Want to Know Why Schools are Staying Open Amid Smoky Conditions

SACRAMENTO -- An air purifier hummed away on a side table in the Bowen family's Sacramento living room.

Smoke has been lingering in the air hundreds of miles from where flames destroyed the town of Paradise.

Due to her asthma, big sister Taylor Bowen has already been to the emergency room for a steroid prescription to help her breathe.

That had her mother and father worried about her brother, Tyler. He has not had classes canceled at his high school like Taylor has at her community college.

"You think one would look to the other and say if the higher education doesn't think it's safe maybe our younger children shouldn't be out," said Brian Bowen.

"Every time I go outside school and to the parking lot it's hard for me to breathe, like very hard," Tyler Bowen said.

That has been combined with coughing and headaches.

When their father tried to get answers from the Twin Rivers Unified School District about why smoke hadn't shuttered classes at Rio Linda High School, he says he was told Sacramento County's health department was in control of that.

Calling there, Brian Bowen claims he was told the district makes the final call.

"She said that if it was up to the health department they would have closed them two days ago," Brian Bowen said. "All they're doing is advising the districts. I asked her why the schools were still open she said it is a money issue. If they're not open, they're not getting paid."

"I feel like I'm getting tossed back and forth," he continued. "One's putting the blame on the health department. The health department's putting the blame back on the school district."

While Sacramento County's health officer has not determined the smoke threat to be significant enough to require any school closures, she has recommended any outside activity be limited.

Beyond that, everything else the Bowens have been told is correct to a certain extent.

Districts do receive funding based on daily student attendance but there's no evidence that has been a factor in keeping classed in session anywhere.

The health department would be in charge of a mandatory closure order and minus that the districts decide on their own what is best.

"We can take two days off for teacher time throughout the year. We give them a week in February off," Brian Bowen said. "But we can't take two or three days when there's a health issue that needs to be addressed. So it's just disappointing."

The health department tells FOX40 districts are working with families who feel the air quality is too poor to send their kids to school.

The Bowens said they've considered keeping Tyler home, but they don't want him to run out of excused absences if he becomes ill due to something else later in the school year.