(Updated Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 2:18 p.m.)


Hesperia schools will be closed Friday due to the smoke pervading the city of Hesperia.


Although the fires in the San Bernardino Mountains are still at a safe distance from Hesperia, smoke blanketed the city Thursday, permeating buildings and classrooms and filling playgrounds with yellow haze.


"There was a conversation between all 10 school districts today," said Deb Baker, executive assistant to HUSD acting superintendent Mark McKinney. "Based on the information on the [Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District] Web site, and especially on our schools on the mesa, that are facing heavy concentrations of [smoke] ... we decided to close the schools."


All 10 High Desert school districts, including Barstow, will close their doors on Friday.


"It's a health concern," said Sharon Romero, the administrator of Hesperia Christian School. "Air quality is still supposed to be bad for the next couple of days. ... It's bad inside our buildings."


Thursday, the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District urged High Desert residents to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities and predicted unhealthy air quality conditions for even healthy individuals.


Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Lucerne Valley and Victorville residents were cautioned to avoid prolonged exertion (and individuals with respiratory disease, such as asthma, were cautioned to avoid even moderate exertion). Residents were urged to stay indoors, keep doors and windows shut and set air conditioners on the recycled air setting if possible.


The HUSD is the Victor Valley's largest single employer, and tomorrow, employees are expected to stay home for health reasons.


Sports, student activities and ROP programs are also cancelled.


"None of our employees are expected to be at work tomorrow," Baker said.


The HUSD will be calling all HUSD parents this evening with their automated Connect-ED phone system, similar to the City of Hesperia's Connect-CTY system, informing them of the closures.


The school district has already caught some flak from parents for not closing schools Thursday, but Baker said the district was operating based off the best information available to them.


"When we came in this morning ... the AQMD Web site showed the air quality for Hesperia was 'Good,'" she said. "We monitored it on an hourly basis, we even called AQMD."


For information on current air quality conditions, call 245-1661, extension 5067, or visit MDAQMD.ca.gov.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.