By Ashley Khakshouri
The varsity football team was forced to scrimmage against itself Friday night when the season opener game was cancelled because of concerns over the air quality in the East San Fernando Valley.
Wildfires in the La Canada Flintridge area had caused poor air quality all week which had disrupted some practices and caused some teams to practice indoors, but the athletic department, using data from the Air Quality Management District, felt the air was safe to play in Friday night.
However, opponent Franklin was forced to forfeit.
“The Los Angeles Unified School District was not allowing any games to be played in the San Fernando Valley east of the 405 because the air quality was not healthy enough,” Athletics Director Terry Barnum said.
“Franklin High School wanted to play but they were not allowed to because they are a public school and have to listen who they are governed by, the LAUSD.”
Barnum said phone calls to LAUSD from Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra and President Thomas Hudnut were not answered.
“Weâre monitoring the air quality. We have print outs at 9 oâclock 10 oâclock and so on, that show that the air quality is moderate. Over 100 is when it becomes unhealthy. We are at 60, somewhere in that range, which is moderate which means we could have activities and for whatever reason they had different information,” Barnum said. “Weâve been using AQMD which weâve been using from the very beginning. But if the issue is studentsâ health and air quality, it shouldnât matter public or private we are all breathing the same air. I think what this points to is the bureaucracy that is LAUSD. Thatâs really what is at the heart of this matter. They failed to use common sense in this case.”
“Iâm very disappointed that LAUSD wasnât able to take case by case,” said Salamandra said.
The athletic department presented Franklin High School with the idea that they could play the game here Saturday night to give the air some time to clear.
That was something they couldnât do, Barnum said.
“They invited us to go there but we have some issues sending our kids closer to the fire in the name of health,” he said. “That sounds a little contradictory on our part. How come they are allowed to play at Franklin which is closer to the fire and not here? Weâve been asking everyone we can that question and we have yet to get an answer.”
Although Barnum did not dispute that the forfeit was unfortunate, he saw a few positives in it.
“Those guys have been killing themselves all summer to get ready for today and then today is taken away from them,” Barnum said. “Thatâs disappointing, really disappointing. But it gives us extra time to prepare for Lynwood. Lynwood tied us last year and they are a very good football team.”
The athletics department cancelled all out-of-season practices and moved in-season outdoor practices indoors on Friday Aug. 28 and Monday, Aug. 31. As of Tuesday, Sept. 1, all out door practices continued, Barnum said.
Director of Sports Medicine Sandee Teruya monitors the statistics hourly to determine if practices need to be cancelled.
“Itâs okay for someone without any type of lung disease to practice outside. None of the athletes who have been practicing outside have had an asthma attack or felt any symptoms,” Teruya said.