Open Letter to Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D. Regarding Sonoma County Schools Air Quality Guidelines (for school closure)

Update: there is a petition gathering signatures to ask for a change to the guidelines.

Update 2: My response to some comments about assuming students’ home air quality is better than schools is at the bottom below references . Click to jump to the update

Update 3: A Spanish translation of the post and table. Click to jump to the translation.
Una traducción al español del post y tabla. Haga clic aquí para saltar a la traducción al Español

November 18, 2018

Dr.  Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D.
Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools
Sonoma County Office of Education
5340 Skylane Boulevard
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-8246

To Dr. Steven D. Herrington:

I am writing in regards to the new Sonoma County Schools Air Quality Guidelines published on November 13, 2018. As a parent of three children in Sonoma County schools and as an educator who teaches in a Sonoma County school I am incredibly concerned and disturbed by the guidelines that you and the district superintendents decided on. The Air Quality Index (AQI) at which schools are to be closed is obscenely high.

Language impacts understanding. We cannot discuss or understand that for which we don’t have words or context. At the Santa Rosa City Schools board meeting on Wednesday, November 14th Superintendent Diann Kitamura stated in her report that, “We don’t have an Air Quality Index … for children. The AQI that has been put out is actually for adults.”  In making your recommendations you used a table that was centered around adults, not children. I think that this is the piece that was missing during your discussions on November 13th that led you to set 275 AQI as the level for school closure. A level that I believe is much too high for student safety.

We need to reframe the AQI in order to center the discussion around children instead of adults. I rebuilt your AQI chart to reframe its language around children (see attached). All children are part of the sensitive group as defined by the AQI table that you used to come up with your recommendations. This means unhealthy for children is one step higher (more dangerous) on the table than unhealthy for non-sensitive adults. By this logic what is unhealthy for adults is very unhealthy for children and what is very unhealthy for adults is hazardous for children. Following this logic the 275 AQI is 75 points into the hazardous range for children. Worse, this is 75 points into the very hazardous range for sensitive children.

As a parent and educator I insist that you immediately address this problem and issue new guidelines that do a better job of protecting our children. I propose that you set the mandatory closure AQI at 200. This would be at the beginning of the hazardous for children range. I also propose that for 150-200 AQI, the very unhealthy range for children, closure be at district discretion. This would bring Sonoma County’s guidelines in line with Lake County’s guidelines. Their guidelines were “Prepared in collaboration with and approved by Lake County Public Health Division” while Sonoma County’s guidelines were “Prepared in collaboration with the county’s 40 school districts”. I think this is informative about why Lake County’s guidelines have stricter requirements than Sonoma County’s.

I understand the need to balance the health and safety of children with their educational needs and the parents’ need to work. On Friday the 16th my children’s school was closed while my school was still open and it added a lot of stress into my family’s day figuring out child care on almost no notice. However, I strongly believe that we need to err on the side of protecting our students’ health. The long term effects on children after being exposed to very unhealthy (150-200 AQI) or hazardous levels (>200 AQI) of air pollution is severe. Our schools are simply not equipped to protect students from dangerous levels of pollution. On your guidelines under Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (children) you state “All doors and windows must remain closed throughout the day.”  This is literally impossible at any school site that has portables or requires students to go outside to access the restroom or to change classrooms. Every school site that I have visited in Sonoma County has at least one of these issues. This makes it impossible to protect our students appropriately at any site with these issues. I teach at an elementary school in a portable. On Friday my door was opened at least thirty (30) times over the course of the day. Every time the door was opened the unhealthy air, including visible pieces of ash, swirled into the classroom. The PurpleAir sensor located at the Sonoma County Center, 2000 ft from my school, started the day at 185 AQI and rose as high as 238 AQI at 11:20am as all of the students were required to go outside in order to walk to the cafeteria for lunch. How is this better than having students safely at home?

As a parent and as an educator I implore you to immediately reconvene the superintendents and revise your guidelines to align them to the revised chart I supplied where children are the focus. Set the mandatory closure rate to 200 AQI and give districts the discretion to close between 150 and 200 AQI. This will better protect our students while giving districts the flexibility to make the call about closing their school sites the night before allowing families more time to address child care. I request you take these actions immediately as other counties are looking at our guidelines and it is essential that revised guidelines be made available before they use your current ones to put their students at unnecessary levels of risk. Indeed Mendocino County has already copied Sonoma County’s recommendations.

Thank you very much for addressing this issue immediately.


Micah Carlin-Goldberg

Parent – Wilmar Union School District
Educator – Santa Rosa City Schools
CC: Superintendent Diann Kitamura – Santa Rosa City Schools
CC: Superintendent/Principal Sheila Garvey – Wilmar School District
CC: County Superintendent Michelle Hutchins – Mendocino County

Child Centered AQI Table Text readable version located at

Creative Commons License  Air Quality Index with Child Centered Language by Micah Carlin-Goldberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at (accessed 11/16/2018)


Update 11/19:

A couple of people gave me feedback that wrote this piece assuming that they have better air quality at home.

I did not assume that students have great air quality at home. I believe that my students get less exposure staying at home then coming to school even with possible poor air quality at home. On Wednesday one of our buses was late picking up in the morning (not unusual) so all of the students from that bus spent 20+ minutes standing on the side of the road waiting in the bad air. No masks. Others walk or ride their bikes to school. No masks. They come to school and in the case of the upper grade students are in portables that are ancient with ancient HVAC systems. Even if the HVAC were new, the door to the outside gets opened 30+ times even while doing everything in our power to keep the door shut as much as possible. They have to walk outside to use the bathroom. They have to walk outside to go to the cafeteria for lunch. On Friday the AQI was 238 when my class walked to lunch. One student had a mask out of 26. We have 420+ students at my site. I saw maybe a dozen masks total on all students at dismissal.

When I wrote the letter I didn’t assume my students had great air quality at home. I looked at the conditions they were required to endure by coming to school and determined they were better off at home when the AQI is above 150.

As a side note. Three of the HVAC systems at my site either failed entirely or had to be shut down because they were pushing visibly smoky air into classrooms on Wednesday. The district is working on fixing them but they weren’t fixed by Thursday and in one case by Friday. On Friday a fourth one started spewing a chemical smell.

This is not unique to my site or my school district. Our schools in Sonoma County are old and run down, which makes them much less safe than anyone who doesn’t work at a school site daily understands.

None of this is to say that the school districts aren’t doing their best for students. Santa Rosa City Schools is in the process of upgrading all air filters in the district to MERV 13 standard which stops the 2.5PM pollutants (the current MERV 8 do not). That does not mean that there isn’t more that can be and needs to be done.

Traducción al Español

18 de noviembre de 2018

Dr. Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D.
Superintendente de Escuelas del Condado de Sonoma
Oficina de Educación del Condado de Sonoma
5340 Skylane Boulevard
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-8246

Al Dr. Steven D. Herrington:

Estoy escribiendo sobre las nuevas Pautas de Calidad del Aire de las Escuelas del Condado de Sonoma publicadas el 13 de noviembre de 2018. Como padre de tres hijos en las escuelas del Condado de Sonoma y como educador que enseña en una escuela del Condado de Sonoma, estoy increíblemente preocupado y perturbado por el Pautas que usted y los superintendentes de distrito decidieron. El índice de calidad del aire (AQI) en el que se cerrarán las escuelas es obscenamente alto.

El lenguaje impacta la comprensión. No podemos discutir o entender aquello para lo que no tenemos palabras o contexto. En la reunión de la junta de las Escuelas de la Ciudad de Santa Rosa el miércoles, 14 de noviembre, la Superintendente Diann Kitamura declaró en su informe que “no tenemos un Índice de Calidad del Aire … para los niños”. El AQI que se ha distribuido es en realidad para adultos “. Al hacer sus recomendaciones, utilizó una tabla centrada alrededor de adultos, no de niños. Creo que esta es la pieza que faltaba durante sus discusiones del 13 de noviembre que lo llevó a establecer 275 AQI como el nivel para el cierre de la escuela. Un nivel que creo que es demasiado alto para la seguridad de los estudiantes.

Necesitamos replantear el AQI para centrar la discusión alrededor de los niños en lugar de los adultos. Reconstruí su carta AQI para replantear su lenguaje alrededor de niños (ver adjunto). Todos los niños forman parte del grupo sensible como se define en la tabla de AQI que solía hacer con sus recomendaciones. Esto significa que insalubre para los niños es un paso más alto (más peligroso) en la tabla que insalubre para adultos no sensibles. Según esta lógica, lo que no es saludable para los adultos es muy poco saludable para los niños y lo que es muy poco saludable para los adultos es peligroso para los niños. Siguiendo esta lógica, el 275 AQI está a 75 puntos en el rango peligroso para niños. Peor aún, esto es 75 puntos en el rango muy peligroso para los niños sensibles.

Como padre y educador, insisto en que aborde de inmediato este problema y emita nuevas pautas que hagan un mejor trabajo para proteger a nuestros niños. Propongo que establezca el AQI de cierre obligatorio en 200. Esto sería al principio del rango peligroso para niños. También propongo que para 150-200 AQI, el rango muy poco saludable para los niños, el cierre sea a discreción del distrito. Esto alineará las pautas del Condado de Sonoma con las pautas del Condado de Lake. Sus pautas fueron “Preparadas en colaboración con y aprobadas por la División de Salud Pública del Condado de Lake”, mientras que las pautas del Condado de Sonoma fueron “Preparadas en colaboración con los 40 distritos escolares del condado”. Creo que esto es informativo acerca de por qué las pautas del Condado de Lake tienen requisitos más estrictos que los del Condado de Sonoma.

Entiendo la necesidad de balancear la salud y la seguridad de los niños con sus necesidades educativas y la necesidad de los padres de trabajar. El viernes 16, la escuela de mis hijos se cerró mientras mi escuela aún estaba abierta y eso generó mucho estrés en el día de mi familia al descifrar el cuidado de niños casi sin previo aviso. Sin embargo, creo firmemente que debemos errar para proteger la salud de nuestros estudiantes. Los efectos a largo plazo en los niños después de haber estado expuestos a niveles muy poco saludables (150-200 AQI) o peligrosos (> 200 AQI) de contaminación del aire son graves. Nuestras escuelas simplemente no están equipadas para proteger a los estudiantes de niveles peligrosos de contaminación. En sus pautas bajo insalubre para grupos sensibles (niños), usted declara: “Todas las puertas y ventanas deben permanecer cerradas durante todo el día”. Esto es literalmente imposible en cualquier escuela que tenga salones portátiles o que requiera que los estudiantes salgan afuera para acceder al baño o para cambiar de salon. Cada sitio escolar que he visitado en el Condado de Sonoma tiene al menos uno de estos problemas. Esto hace que sea imposible proteger a nuestros estudiantes adecuadamente en cualquier sitio con estos problemas. Enseño en una escuela primaria en un portátil. El viernes, mi puerta se abrió al menos treinta (30) veces a lo largo del día. Cada vez que se abría la puerta, el aire insalubre, incluidas las piezas visibles de ceniza, se arremolinaba en el salon. El sensor de PurpleAir ubicado en el Centro del Condado de Sonoma, a 2000 pies de mi escuela, comenzó el día a 185 AQI y se elevó a 238 AQI a las 11:20 am, mientras que todos los estudiantes necesitaban salir del salón para ir a la cafetería para el almuerzo. ¿Cómo es esto mejor que tener estudiantes seguros en casa?

Como padre y como educador, le suplico que vuelva a reunirse de inmediato con los superintendentes y revise sus pautas para alinearlas con la tabla revisada que proporcioné donde los niños son el enfoque. Establezca la tasa de cierre obligatorio en 200 AQI y otorgue a los distritos la discreción de cerrar entre 150 y 200 AQI. Esto protegerá mejor a nuestros estudiantes mientras les da a los distritos la flexibilidad de hacer la llamada sobre el cierre de sus escuelas la noche antes de permitirles a las familias más tiempo para ocuparse del cuidado infantil. Solicito que tome estas medidas inmediatamente, ya que otros condados están observando nuestras pautas y es esencial que las pautas revisadas estén disponibles antes de que usen las actuales para poner a sus estudiantes en niveles innecesarios de riesgo. De hecho, el Condado de Mendocino ya ha copiado las recomendaciones del Condado de Sonoma.

Muchas gracias por abordar este problema de inmediato.


Micah Carlin-Goldberg

Padre – Wilmar Union School District
Educador – Escuelas de la ciudad de Santa Rosa

CC: Superintendente Diann Kitamura – Escuelas de la ciudad de Santa Rosa
CC: Superintendente / Directora Sheila Garvey – Distrito escolar de Wilmar
CC: Superintendente del Condado Michelle Hutchins – Condado de Mendocino

Child Centered AQI Table vert esp

All I Want For My Birthday Is #NetNeutrality (It’s The Civil Right Of The 21st Century)

I started to write this just for my personal friends who wished me a happy birthday last week but it turned into much more. So please read this, share it, and most importantly CALL!

Dear Friends,

Thank you very much for your kind birthday wishes. I have a request in honor of my birthday. Please call your elected Representatives to demand Net Neutrality (details below). It will take a few minutes of your time, but it is incredibly important for the future of free speech in our country. Net Neutrality is the Civil Right of the 21st Century.

Net Neutrality is the idea that your internet service provider cannot slow down or prevent your access to specific sites and cannot charge you more to access specific sites. A cold hard example of this is that last night I listened to audio from inside the internment camp holding immigrant children held hostage by the Trump administration. Without Net Neutrality Comcast, or ATT, or any other ISP could choose to block my access to the ProPublica website or slow down the ProPublica traffic to the point where the audio won’t load or the webpage becomes unusable. Still not sure what Net Neutrality is or why it is important? John Oliver has your back (One, Two) Net Neutrality is currently dead due to a disastrous ruling by the GOP controlled FCC. There is still a chance to return the Internet to a place where everyone has equal access to information and equal rights, both at the federal level and locally in California.

The US Senate has already passed the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC ruling. The next step is to get the US House of Representatives to also pass the CRA (House CRA). Unfortunately the GOP controlled House refuses to allow a vote on the proposal. In order to force a vote on the CRA the Discharge Petition needs to have 218 Representatives vote in favor, currently 172 have signed as of June 16th. I need you to call your representatives and tell them to sign the Discharge Petition if they haven’t already and tell them to vote yes on the CRA if they already signed. I have resources to contact your rep at the end.

The state of California also has its own Net Neutrality legislation that has passed the State Senate. It is Senate Bill 822 (SB 822) which already passed the Senate and needs your support to pass the House of Representatives. I need you to call your Representative to demand that they support SB 822 through its ratification and that they demand that it is passed un-amended as the ISPs are pushing hard to take the teeth out of the bill and weaken it. This is especially important if you live in one of the districts whose Assembly member is on the committee currently considering the bill as it is up for a vote on the 20th.

To push your Representative to sign the House Discharge Petition to force a vote on the Congressional Review Act go to they will let you email your Congressional Representative and then connect your phone to your Rep and give you a script.

If you want to look up your representative yourself you can go here: If your rep has already signed here is a list of others you can call:


If you live in California we also have Senate Bill 822 (SB 822) to push through the Assembly. Please call your Representative and demand that they push for SB 822 to be passed without amendments. Find your Rep here:

If you have more time call the Reps who are on the Committee currently holding the bill.

I am a member of CUE and they gave me permission to quote one of their member correspondences below. Their script is obviously for Educators and CUE members in specific but please modify it to suit your needs but definitely call!

It is especially important to call Chair Miguel Santiago as he is single-handedly trying to destroy the legislation due to ISP pressure.


From CUE, used with permission:  

If net neutrality is important to you and your schools, we are asking that you call members of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee, especially those who directly represent you, to ask that they support SB 822, by voting YES to pass the bill out of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee on June 20th.


If you call, state the following:

  1. Ask for the staff person assigned to work with the Assembly member on SB 822. Introduce yourself and mention your role in education, your school/district, and location.
  2. Mention that you represent a Statewide non-profit educational organization known as Computer Using Educators (CUE) which has over 19,000 members consisting of k-12 classroom teachers and school administrators.
  3. Mention the fact that over 50% of homework assignments involve the need for students to have affordable Internet access at their homes.
  4. Net neutrality helps to ensure that school districts and homes will not have Internet service slowed down and/or rates increased due to lack of regulations that ensure net neutrality.
  5. Ask the Assembly member to support SB 822, by voting yes to pass the bill out of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee on June 20th.
  6. If time permits, you may want to ask the staff person if they have any questions and/or concerns about the bill.

Prioritize your call according to those who represent the State Assembly District you live in first, and then move on to the others. If you call any legislators, please let us know who you called and any relevant feedback you received.


Contact John Cradler, CUE Legislative Consultant at or phone 650-218-7046 for questions and feedback.

Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee Members

Ask for the staff person working on SB 822 but if that staff person isn’t available, ask for anyone else who can take the message and communicate to the Assembly member that CUE supports SB 822.

Miguel Santiago (Chair), Dem-53: (916) 319-2053

Jay Obernolte (Vice Chair), Rep-33: (916) 319-2033

Rob Bonta, Dem-18: (916) 319-2018

Sabrina Cervantes, Dem-60: (916) 319-2060

Eduardo Garcia, Dem-56: (916) 319-2056

Chris R. Holden, Dem-41: (916) 319-2041

Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Dem-54: (916) 319-2054

Evan Low, Dem-28: (916) 319-2028

Brian Maienschein, Rep-77: (916) 319-2077

Devon J. Mathis, Rep-26: (916) 319-2026

Jim Patterson, Rep-23: (916) 319-2023

Sharon Quirk-Silva, Dem-65: (916) 319-2065

Freddie Rodriguez, Dem-52: (916) 319-2052


My Journey to #FallCUE 2017

This weekend, I attended Fall CUE at American Canyon High School. My journey started 18 months ago when I attended my first EdTechTeam Google Summit. It was at this summit that I became a Connected Educator. Since that time I have connected with several communities through Twitter and Voxer. The two I feel the most connected with are TOSAchat and ConnectedTL both groups have a large connection with CUE and the CUE affiliates. I followed along on Twitter as my PLN went to Fall and Spring CUE and I picked up tidbits here and there.

This year I made a point to go to Fall CUE. I scheduled it. I registered. Then on October 8th the #SonomaFires swept through my community. As the fires raged all of my students, many colleagues and friends were evacuated from their homes. Some have no home to return to. As of now the best count for my district is that we lost one school site and 38 teachers, 50+ classified, and 900+ students lost their homes in the last three weeks. The entire district has been closed for three weeks as we waited for the fires to be under control, the schools to be professionally assessed and cleaned, and there to be enough staff available to reopen the schools.

As this calamity beat up my community my attendance at Fall CUE became uncertain. I simply did not know when school would reopen, when we would be able to bring a little more stability back into our students’ lives. As it happens our first day back and the first day of Fall CUE were the same day. I was disappointed to miss the sessions I was looking forward to on Friday but totally jazzed to see all of my students again for the first time in three weeks. It was very much like the first day of class all over again, except they knew the procedures and I knew everyone’s name.

Shortly after school let out I headed out to CUE hoping to be able to attend the last session of the day. Three traffic incidents and an extra hour of driving later I pulled up to the school just after registration closed and within minutes everyone was leaving their sessions. I felt horribly disconnected and lonely as hundreds of people streamed out to their cars. I knew there were people I knew in the crowd but I didn’t see any of them.

This year Cate Tolnai (@CateTolnai) and CUE Member Engagement scheduled evening socials in nearby Napa (BEST. IDEA. EVER.). My first stop was to attempt to meet up with North Bay CUE (@NorthBayCUE) folks at Norman Rose Tavern (@NormanRoseNapa). It was my local affiliate but I hadn’t met any of them before. Unfortunately, when I got there CUE had stuffed the place to the gills. Every seat was filled with 25+ waiting by the bar. With no familiar faces in sight I headed out and went to Napkins Bar & Grill (@NapkinsNapa) to attempt to meet up with the Hyperdocs Crew. It was slightly less packed and as I walked in I saw Lisa, Sarah, and Kelly right away. Immediately I felt reconnected, their authentic, happy greetings as soon as they saw me was exactly what I needed. Though I hadn’t seen any of them in quite a while it felt as though it was no time at all. They quickly drew me into the group and introduced me to those who I didn’t know.

Over the next five hours I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and finally met face to face with people that I have been connecting with online for the last year. I had finally arrived.

Thursday Coding and Robotics Elective – Five Months Later

Apparently I forgot to post this months ago, oops.

Three months ago my school instituted a Thursday afternoon elective program for our 4-6th grade students. You can read about the process of getting it started here. We are now coming to the end of the school year and I want to document some stats and make some notes for myself.

Coding and Robotics Elective

Cycle One Stats:

  • 6 weeks.
  • 20 students, 4 girls, 16 boys.
  • 5 robots, 1 Ozobot, 4 Dash robots.

Cycle Two Stats:

#Hyperdocs Bootcamp – My FIRST Hyperdoc

Well, I finally did it. I completed writing my first Hyperdoc. I have wanted to for over a year since I first learned about them at the Sonoma GAFE Summit in April 2016. I had planned to write one before but never managed to get anywhere with it. Last month, in June, I jumped at the opportunity to take the Hyperdoc Bootcamp put on by the Hyperdocs Ladies (Lisa, Sarah, and Kelly).

Our final project was to write a new hyperdoc to use this year. After scrapping a few ideas I settled on one that I think worked out well. I designed a hyperdoc to both serve as a beginning of the year get to know you activity as well as to teach my students about Google Slides and Google Docs. I set the level of skill needed very low because my students last year had zero experience creating with computers. This is probably a good fit for 5th grade and above.

The base of the hyperdoc is built into a Google Site. The Engage and Explore phases are done on the site and can be used for reference. The Explain, Apply Share are done in individual documents. After the students Explore they click a link to make their own copy of a slide deck or a doc. The first thing they do is rename and share the document to the teacher. I set up the instructions to allow the hyperdoc to be used with or without Google Classroom (but honestly much easier with).

As a part of the Explore phase I created a Slides and a Docs cheatsheet to teach about the icon bar. They are available here: Slides Cheatsheet | Docs Cheatsheet
Feel free to share them separately from the hyperdoc.

Please find the Welcome to G Suite hyperdoc at:

Please use it with your students and I would love your feedback. There is a feedback form on the teacher instructions page of the website.