The recess bell rings out across an empty school yard as a normally chaotic playground stays empty at Sisters Elementary School. Smoke has blanketed the Sisters area as the Pole Creek Fire southwest of town continues to burn.
“We have 1,200 kids -- and they’re kids, they want to run around, they want to be active, and they can’t,” Sisters Schools Superintendent Jim Golden said Monday.
Air quality across the town has been rated as hazardous by the Department of Environmental Quality. In response to the poor air quality, the American Red Cross is running a disaster aid station in the elementary school's gymnasium.
Carrie Sammons, public information officer for the Red Cross, says the school is one of the best places for children to be.
“The school itself is able to keep their air pretty clean by keeping it closed up and closing up some of the intake areas,” Sammons said.
Everyone is accommodating the smoke and dealing with the change of routine. For example: gym class has been moved to the cafeteria.
“I hope that the office staff survives all the noise we’re creating out here," said David Hewett, the gym teacher. "So far, we’re doing okay.”
Extra-curricular activities are also being put on hold, or moved to less smoky locations.
“We have a home football game on Friday," Golden said, looking ahead to the Sisters Outlaws' scheduled game against Cascade. "We’re looking at rescheduling to where we would hold it at Central (High School).”
Golden also says that practices have been moved indoors for outdoor sports.
“The high school has a commons," he said. "It’s likely that soccer practice will have to be in the commons.”
In the meantime, everyone accommodates the changes while the fire continues to blaze.
“I assume that we are just stuck in this groove until we get a change in the weather, so I assume we’ll be doing this for a while,” Hewett said with a chuckle.
“We’re just going to have to ride this tiger until the fire crews get favorable weather conditions, which we’re hoping for later this week,” Golden said.