Over the last couple of weeks, the haze in Penang has gotten noticeably worse. Dalat School does have a haze policy that guides us in situations when haze is a concern. I thought it would be good for us to explain the policy and give parents information and resources about living during periods of haze.
Malaysia and the island of Penang have periods of hazy conditions. This is usually created by the shifting of wind currents that carry smoke from Indonesia. In 1997, this created a state of emergency for Malaysia as the API readings during that time were as high as 800.
Because there are occasional times of haze, a number of years ago Dalat gathered input from the other international schools in Penang, international schools in KL, and the Ministry of Education to formulate a policy. A part of the policy relies on the API readings provided by the Malaysian government. The API readings measure five different pollutants in the air that can be harmful to humans. Four of them are carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The fifth one is a measuring of particulate matter (what you see) in the air. How the API is calculated is a little hard to understand as it uses averages for some of the pollutants but does not for others. The key thing to understand, however, is that the API is not an average of these five pollutants, but instead is a reading that indicates the highest pollutant at that time. This means you can have a high API reading and possibly not a lot of haze (particulate matter) or the other way around. The school uses the API readings provided by USM as that is the closest API reading station to the school.
During this current period of haze, we will continue to watch the readings and use the policy to guide our day-to-day activities. If there is the possibility of a school closing, we will communicate with parents via email and/or SMS. As you will read below in our policy, the API reading is an important part of the decision but not the only aspect considered before we make the decision to close school or alter activities – knowing that it affects families in so many ways. Please understand that Dalat will not simply close if there is a reading that spikes above 200. Instead, we will look at the previous readings and trends to see what the situation for the coming school day may be. As an example, the schools in Klang Valley were closed last year because of an API reading that was 233 late one afternoon. The next morning, however, the API readings for that area were down in the 180 range and school could have been in session.
All of our classrooms at Dalat have air conditioning, so having your children at school with poor air quality does not put them at risk. We care about your children’s health and safety and will not put them at risk, but we also want to be wise in our decisions that affect school and in turn, affect your family.
Here are some links about API and API readings in Malaysia: