Involve a wide range of people from all stakeholder groups - administration, teaching and operations staff and students. They can provide the most reliable and cost-effective information about school conditions and activities. That can save time and money on useless tests and inspections.
Step 2. The IAQ Team thinks holistically and proactively.
See the whole school as an interdependent living system. Use maps to show building systems, air intakes and vents, office and maintenance equipment, and activities.
Step 3. The IAQ Team keeps good records.
Encourage all staff and students to report their symptoms and observations of poor conditions. Mapping symptoms can reveal timing and location patterns that pin-point poor conditions and high risk activities that cause asthma and other health problems.
• Are teachers reporting that white board markers cause headaches or eye irritation?
• Are vents exhausting fumes from building repair projects, art room or auto shop?
• Is a copy machine without proper venting filling a room with irritating ozone and other emissions that make people sick.
• Are water leaks promptly repaired and damp or moldy materials such as carpets or ceiling tiles promptly removed?
Step 4. The IAQ Team reviews old records.
Most schools have a lot of old inspections and maintenance reports and pest control invoices. Every New England school system has accreditation reports from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Look for patterns of complaints and problems, hasty repairs and poorly managed renovations.
In Peabody, Massachusetts more than fifty students were tutored at home and several teachers were unable to work because of reactions to a host of suspected pollutants in the building. Officials had been reassuring everyone that things were fine and the problem was limited to a forgotten tank beneath the school courtyard that was filled with chemicals drained from science labs. Several months and over $400,000 later, engineers cited "gross ventilation deficiencies, poorly placed storage and disposal of chemicals, historic inadequate housekeeping and a leaky roof." Old inspection reports in the files had identified the same serious building problems years earlier.
Step 5. The IAQ Team puts a high priority on regular facility audits.
Audits save money. They open eyes to conditions that can cause damage and waste if problems are ignored.
A pest control expert, during an inspection in one Newton elementary school, pointed out how the district could have saved thousands of dollars if someone had simply re-attached a down spout that was laying on the ground. During his walk-through he observed a rain storm causing a waterfall over a courtyard door that was fragmenting and green with mold. The eave over the door was bent and the water was funneling down, splashing on the step at the bottom of the door. The frame gaped. The wall and the base of the door were rotted. Inside, behind a heating panel, there were dead mice on glue boards. Dead blow flies were swarming in the rotting carcasses. Obviously the down spout and the rot had been ignored for years.
Step 6. The IAQ Team makes teaching safely and teaching safety a priority.
An asthma-safe standard is a good investment in educational equity for students with asthma and educational excellence for everyone.
Classroom lesson plans can teach that solvents and other common products contain poisons, toxins, pollutants, and/or highly flammable liquids and gases. Messages about inhalant safety can be included in health education, first aid, fire safety, arts and crafts, tech-voc, cosmetology, culinary arts, consumer health, baby-sitting and lab and science classes and community health promotion activities.
Step 7. The IAQ Team develops an occupancy standard that prioritizes children's health and safety.
Adopt a zero-tolerance standard for "toxic fumes," "flammables," and "explosives."
Set high standards for chemical safety and sanitation in all locations and activities -- shops, vocational programs, science, technology and engineering and math, art, food service, maintenance and pest control. Coordinate purchasing to avoid waste and hazardous waste disposal costs.
Consider the danger to children from the following conditions at Newton North High School. They had been identified in more than twenty years of inspections and were repeatedly ignored by school officials.
...incompatible storage of chemicals, and storage of chemicals in leaking or damaged containers may lead to unexpected fires, explosions or release of toxic fumes and gases into the occupied spaces of the school. Chemicals are stored alphabetically instead of according to chemical class or hazard, i.e., flammables, corrosives and explosives sitting next to each other... Old and deteriorating containers being attacked by acid and vapors as a result of improper storage... There is no labeling or identification. ...Chemicals are deteriorating to the point that the secondary containers holding them have started to corrode, i.e. bromine containers in an old inoperable refrigerator also stored xylene and trichloroacetic acid (located within five feet of a major school corridor.)" The situation, not an unusual one, could have cost many people their lives. Newton was lucky that all it cost the school was $60,000 for an unplanned "emergency" hazardous materials removal.
Step 8. The IAQ Team adopts a school wide Intelligent Pest Management program.
Intelligent Pest Management makes everyone in a school aware and responsible for spotting poor conditions and improving sanitation to prevent rodent and insect problems, it can prevent deterioration and avoids the risks of using pesticides.
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The world endures solely by virtue of the breath of school children. (Talmud)