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Air quality keeps students and athletes indoors in Billing schools; games canceled

Senior football practice.jpg
Posted at 8:19 AM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 10:19:27-04

Poor air quality left schools in parts of Montana holding recess and team practices indoors, with games canceled.

Normally the Billings Senior High School football team practices at Daylis Stadium, but because of the bad air, the team went inside the gym.

About 70 runners from the Senior cross-country team worked out inside at Broadwater Elementary School.

"We'd definitely prefer to be outdoors, that's for sure," said Drew Pellandini, captain of the boys cross country team. "But I mean, you've got to do what you got to do. So at least we're getting it in."

"It's hard to breathe in general when you're running, so just safety first," said Kaneesha Beeman, Senior cross country coach. "We can't have our kiddos out there breathing that."

Beeman said her teams regularly carpool to different practices, and a change in routine will go smoothly.

"We're going get our lungs under us," Beeman said. "We're going to get a good workout."

"We also have fun as a team and we're all here to try and work hard," said Ruby Carter, captain of the girls team. "But it's definitely more fun outside."

All practices indoors meant it was crowded at Billings West and Billings Skyview with home volleyball matches.

A Senior-Skyview soccer doubleheader was postponed at Amend Park, as were Lockwood soccer matches.

Air quality has been in the unhealthy area for most of the day, and by midday crept into the very unhealthy area.

DEQ air chart.jpg

"Once we get into that red area, which is over 150, that's when we start taking a look at moving everything inside and canceling events," said Mark Sulser, Billings School District 2 athletics and activities director.

School District 2 uses recommendations from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and considers other factors as well, such as referee schedules.

According to Billings Public Schools administrators, other Montana schools follow the same guidelines.

Meanwhile, Beeman's elementary students stayed in the classrooms for recess.

"It's been a beautiful day, Tuesday," Beeman said. "However, we're all inside for recess. So the kids are cooped up and wondering why we have to be inside. But they're doing great."

Hoping they'll be back outside Wednesday.

"It's a moving target," Sulser said. "You just keep an eye on that air quality all day long on the app. And if things improve and get closer to that orange area, then we go forward."