GREAT FALLS — With smoky skies Friday morning and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality reporting the air quality in the area to be unhealthy, Great Falls Public Schools announced the junior varsity football game between Great Falls High School and Bozeman scheduled for Friday would not happen.
The decision to postpone events is up to school districts.
"You have individuals that have different health concerns and so forth. Most of our student athletes are very healthy individuals, but if they're exposed to a prolonged period of time where they're having to ingest or inhale particulate matter, smoke, that's not healthy to them we don't want to subject them to that,” explained Tom Moore, Great Falls Public Schools superintendent .
School districts use the Montana DEQ's air quality data to determine if an event should happen or not. Click here to see the guidelines used by GFPS to determine if outdoor activities should be postponed/canceled (PDF).
According to the data, the air quality in Great Falls had been steady at about the middle of the "unhealthy" level for most of Friday morning, but around 11 a.m. improved to almost being in the range of "unhealthy for sensitive groups."
"Wildfires have been a factor in the quality of life for all of us, so I think it's one of those things we need to attend to to the extent that we can,” Moore said.
In Helena, the data showed the air quality steadily increasing through the unhealthy level throughout the day.
"At times, it can be a little bit frustrating because so much of it is outside of our control and it's responding to something. It's not planning or scheduling or preparing, it really is responding to what you have whether it's COVID or lack of transportation or in this case smoke,” said Tim McMahon, Helena Public Schools activities director.
Further complicating the decision is having to consider the potential challenge of rescheduling events.
"It's not as easy as 'I've got an open day here.' The other team has to have the same open day,” McMahon explained.
Want to conduct an air quality test at home? Click here.