The Baker School District has canceled all outdoor sports practices due to poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke.

The first of three “mini sessions,” for traditional spring sports, started Sept. 7 and continues through Oct. 9.

During that period, Baker’s baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field teams can have practices.

But with the air quality index in Baker City rising to the “unhealthy” and even “very unhealthy” categories, Baker is complying with recommendations from the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA), said Buell Gonzales Jr., the Baker School District’s athletic director.

The OSAA calls for districts to cancel outdoor practices when the air quality index exceeds 100.

The index in Baker City has been above that level, as high as 257, since Saturday.

Although indoor practices, and workouts including weightlifting, can continue indoors, Gonzales said it will be difficult to juggle multiple teams indoors while also keeping equipment sanitized and otherwise complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s not easy during a ‘normal’ time to share space but it’s near to impossible with these restrictions to gain any real value and time,” Gonzales said.

Although outdoor practices can resume when the air quality index dips to 100 or below, OSAA guidelines call for student-athletes with asthma or other respiratory problems to be cautious when the index is in the “moderate” category, from 51 to 100.

Gonzales said he hopes the local air quality index will return to the “good” category — 50 or below — soon to allow Baker teams to resume the practices they had only recently started.

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