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.