IAQ Tools for Schools

IAQ Management: Essential for a Healthy School Environment

By Richard Middleton

During my tenure as the superintendent of the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, TX, I’ve had one goal in mind: provide the best, most nurturing learning environments to my students that I possibly can. And after 21 years of doing just that, I can tell you that this simply cannot be done without addressing indoor air quality (IAQ).

IAQ is one of those issues that can too easily be pushed aside and minimized by one of many other concerns that school districts have. But, in my opinion, it’s one of the most important things that a school district can do to ensure that their students are healthy, learning and thriving – and that the teachers are too! And just a few, simple changes in maintenance practices can make a huge difference.

For example, in our district we were bogged down by clutter. We had cluttered classrooms and storage areas full of items that were just collecting dust. It was so bad that our cleaning crews couldn’t even navigate through the classrooms around the clutter to properly clean! By simply eliminating the clutter and removing carpeting in classrooms and hallways and following EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Program guidance we improved IAQ and saw dramatic decreases in absenteeism and visits to the school nurse that have been sustained over time. It didn’t take much – but it did take making a commitment to improving IAQ and sticking to it.

And for those school districts out there that don’t feel like they have the expertise or resources to begin the process of developing an IAQ management plan, the IAQ Tools for Schools Program is there to help you every step of the way. It provides help with IAQ planning and management tools and connects you with peers and mentors so you can learn from each other’s experiences. In particular, I would encourage school districts at the beginning of the IAQ management process to attend the 2011 IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium. It’s an invaluable resource and one of the best things that we did while developing our IAQ management program.

About the Author: Richard Middleton has devoted his career to the education and betterment of children. For the past 21 years he has served as the superintendent of the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. North East Independent School District is a recipient of EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools National Excellence Award, which is presented to school districts that have shown exceptional commitment to good IAQ management in schools.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Taking Action on Radon in Your School District? No Better Time than the Present!

By Jani Palmer

Three months ago I blogged to parents and teachers about opportunities for kids to participate in a radon poster contest to get their design on a T-shirt to celebrate National Radon Action Month. Responses were abundant, and let me tell you the posters being voted on as I blog are phenomenal! A T-shirt is a great way to raise awareness about indoor air quality bu the best way to protect against radon is to test. I used to work on indoor air quality in a school district, so I know about the only time to get something substantial done is during holiday breaks. I know it crept up on us, but the holidays are here, so what better time to test your school for radon than right now?

Radon control is as integral to school health as other IAQ management activities and fits right in with your IAQ Tools for Schools management activities. About half of our nation’s schools are deploying these activities, providing healthier learning environments fo about 27 million students and 2.5 million staff. If your school doesn’t use the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, take a look at the graphic here from the kit that shows how an effective school IAQ program integrates planning, communicating and four other key drivers. Why not attend the 11th IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium in January? Click here for information from the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit on how you can manage radon along with your other day-to-day IAQ duties.

Radon testing and mitigation don’t have to be scary topics, because radon is so easily identified and fixed. What is scary is that radon causes cancer. Testing is the only way to know if your building has radon, and knowing if your building has radon is the first step toward fixing it. Having trouble knowing where to start? Contact your state radon program for guidance through the process.

Across the country, school facilities staff are working hard to protect IAQ for students, teachers, and staff. If you know about a school district that’s doing a great job, be sure to congratulate them with a quick note below. Their dedication and perseverance to maintaining healthy building by fixing holes, changing ceiling tiles and testing rooms can make a huge difference in someone’s life, and for that, they deserve our thanks!

About the author: Jani Palmer is a Physical Scientist in the Indoor Environments Division. She has been in the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene field for 10 years providing environmental consulting and services for school districts, industry, and public agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The Louisiana Recovery School District: Healing and Thriving

modBy Tiffany Delcour

Indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools is my top priority – and here in the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) we’ve had our work cut out for us since Hurricane Katrina to ensure that our schools are as safe and healthy as they can be. But believe it or not, the issue of IAQ didn’t begin with Katrina. Now, don’t get me wrong, Katrina damaged 80% of our school facilities and caused $1.8 billion in damages. Five years later, we are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina on our school district and in many places we have vast, modular campuses instead of permanent school buildings. But really the issue of IAQ started with deferred maintenance costs before the storm.

Deferred maintenance costs are an issue that many, many school districts can relate to, especially older districts with aging buildings. Over time, deferred maintenance can lead to high levels of carbon dioxide, moisture, humidity, HVAC issues and more – universal concerns for school districts, not just those located in hurricane recovery areas. They are issues that RSD is now tackling in all of its schools – including the ones that weren’t damaged by Katrina.

After Katrina, RSD created a district-wide, master rebuilding plan that encompasses all aspects of the rebuilding process — including the issue of IAQ. It also includes a component for preventative maintenance and long-term planning. EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Program has been integral to the RSD recovery process.

Last year RSD was featured at the IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium as a Featured School District. There we shared our story and challenges and received mentorship on how to effectively utilize the IAQ Tools for Schools program. And after we got home, we got to work. The program provided an already-established structure and framework, complete with guidelines and best practices, from which we created an RSD-specific IAQ strategy. We established an air quality team at each school, implemented recommended guidelines, prioritized remediation issues and employed focused preventative maintenance strategies. And we’re happy to report that this year RSD will be attending the Symposium again to share these successes.

We would encourage anyone who is concerned about the health of students, staff, and school buildings in their communities to attend the Symposium – January 13-15, 2011, in Washington, DC. You’ll leave inspired, informed and ready to take on the world.

About the author: Tiffany Delcour joined the Louisiana Recovery School District a little over a year ago as the IAQ coordinator. She has worked directly with EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program as a featured school at the IAQ Tools for Schools Symposium and currently serves as a mentor to other school stakeholders.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Children’s Health Month – How are you Celebrating?

fall-leaves.2By Stacy Murphy

October brings to mind different images for different people: bright fall colors; crispy nights,  packing away summer clothes and pulling out jackets and sweaters. But to me it also means one more important thing: Children’s Health Month.

Children’s health is my #1 priority and the reason that I come to work every day.  Indoor and environmental air quality is a big health issue for kids, since they spend most of their time indoors. Even normal outdoor kid activities, like sports or playing outside, can expose them to many environmental health hazards.

Here in Region 6 we have a lot of great Children’s Health Month programs planned, including our showcase event where a cross-agency team will provide education on pesticide safety and asthma management to migrant farm worker families at Dia de los Migrantes in San Juan, Texas.

But you don’t have to be an “expert” to carry the message of protecting kids from harm to your community. That’s the beauty of the Children’s Health Program. Anyone can take action to promote children’s health. For example, you could provide local organizations, like non-profits or faith-based groups, with information about how kids are affected by indoor and environmental air quality. You can access educational materials for free on the Children’s Health Month section of the EPA website.

Although October is officially Children’s Health Month, EPA really works to protect children’s health year-round. For example, the IAQ Tools for Schools program supports children in schools by maintaining safe and healthy learning environments, which can significantly impact achievement. Each January the IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium provides an amazing opportunity to learn strategies and tactics to improve student and staff health, as well as reduce absenteeism, increase student and staff performance and enhance community relations. Everyone from the IAQ novice to national experts can benefit from attending the symposium. I’ll be there and I hope to see you there too.

About the author: Stacy Murphy joined EPA in 2005 and currently serves as the Schools Coordinator for EPA Region 6 where he manages programs to improve school indoor environments, including IAQ Tools for Schools and the Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (S3C).

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.