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Oakridge schools battle thick smoke

Highway 58 near Oakridge last week
Brian Bull
Highway 58 near Oakridge last week

The air quality in Oakridge has been at hazardous levels for some time as the Cedar Creek Fire continues to burn. KLCC checked in to see how the area’s schools are doing.

Reta Doland is the Oakridge Schools Superintendent. She told KLCC their three buildings have some of the best air in town, with several air scrubbers and over 130 air purifiers. “Our elementary school changed the entrance to the front entrance only," she said, "because we have a vestibule there and we can put air scrubbers in that vestibule and everybody comes in and out that door.” All other doors remain closed.

Doland said the air scrubber filters become loaded with smoke particulates every two days, adding, “They’re about six ounces when they go in, and when they come out they weigh about five or six pounds.”

She credits Lane County and Oakridge Air for their help. Home filtration systems are being distributed to students 12 and under who meet qualifications, as well as to seniors on Medicare. Nearby schools have also helped, offering to host sports events while Oakridge athletes cannot safely play outside.

Doland said morale is good, though it’s hard to not be able to enjoy the outdoors.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.