District 19 School Facilities Director Recognized
In recognition of National Healthy Schools Day on April 7th, the state is encouraging school superintendents to take steps to promote healthy environments in Connecticut schools.
In a letter to school superintendents, the commissioners of the Departments of Public Health, Education, and Energy and Environmental Protection said that Connecticut’s laws are designed to protect Connecticut’s school children and personnel from exposure to health hazards such as radon, mold, toxic cleaning chemicals, pesticides and exhaust from idling vehicles. They encouraged superintendents to review these laws on an annual basis and offered resources to assist with compliance.
Connecticut law requires every school district to adopt and implement an indoor air quality program that provides for the maintenance and improvement of the indoor air quality of its facilities. School districts are also required to implement a green cleaning products program for cleaning and maintaining school buildings and facilities.
“Indoor air quality impacts students’ health and ability to learn. Fortunately, Connecticut has a number of important school indoor environmental quality laws and programs to protect the health of school children and staff,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Our Tools for Schools program helps schools comply with these laws, and focuses on many low-cost or no-cost solutions which address factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality, such as air pollutants or poor ventilation.”
“The health, safety and well-being of students in our schools is a major focus of environmental and public health laws and programs in Connecticut,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “At DEEP we have built a positive working relationship with local school officials across the state to help provide them with the information and tools they need to address any health or environmental issues that may arise in their facilities.”
“A healthy learning environment is an essential condition for student growth and development,” said Interim Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell. “From secure buildings, to positive school climates, to healthy indoor air quality, one of our top priorities as educators is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and school staff.”
Connecticut Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Hero
In Connecticut, a consortium of 24 agencies and organizations formed the Connecticut School Indoor Environment Resource Team (CSIERT) in 1999. This group, with leadership from the Department of Public Health, assists schools and school districts with implementing and sustaining the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) IAQ Tools for Schools (TfS) program throughout the state.
The TfS program is a team-based strategy to improving IAQ in school buildings. A building-based team of administrators, teachers, maintenance staff, parents, and others investigates and prioritizes indoor air hazards to develop short and long-term strategies to solve IAQ problems. DPH, along with its CSIERT partners provides comprehensive training for these teams. Since 2000, TfS has been implemented in over 925 schools across the state.
This year, CSIERT is honoring Ralph Pemberton, Region 19 school district Director of Building and Grounds as this year’s Connecticut IAQ Tools for Schools Hero for his work in the district and as a CSIERT representative for the Connecticut School Building and Grounds Association. Mr. Pemberton has played a key role in encouraging Connecticut school building and grounds directors to adopt the TfS program. He has also been a leader in working with CSIERT agencies and organizations to assist school districts in implementing the 2009 School Green Cleaning Products law.
Unhealthy school environments can harm occupants’ health and hinder learning, affecting attendance, concentration and performance, as well as leading to costly, time-consuming cleanup and remediation activities for schools. Addressing school indoor environmental quality issues is an important part of the overall strategy to reduce the impact of asthma in our state. Reducing asthma triggers in schools is part of a coordinated asthma management program.
Actions taken by Connecticut schools to improve indoor air quality include:
seeking out and buying less-hazardous products to use indoors;
having hard surface flooring to make it easier to clean;
removing water-damaged carpeting;
using certified green cleaning products to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals, and eliminating air fresheners and room deodorizers;
disposing of old-outdated and hazardous chemicals to reduce the risks of spills and injuries; keeping food and pets out of classrooms to reduce pest infestations;
preventing blocked ventilation systems to increase fresh air and safe energy;
de-cluttering a classroom to make the room easier to clean at the end of the day;
advanced energy efficient lighting and ventilating systems adds more savings long-term.
National Healthy Schools Day is a national movement to improve schools’ indoor environmental quality, as it adversely impacts predominantly women and children. School environments play an important role in the health and academic success of children. Each school day, 55 million children and 7 million adults — 20 percent of the total U.S. population and 98 percent of all children—spend their days inside school buildings.