The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide, Monona Rossol, Arts, Crafts and Teacher Safety Although written for artists and teachers in the arts, this book is useful for anyone interested in healthier schools. Rossol provides a comprehensive introduction to the basic concepts and vocabulary necessary for understanding the acute and chronic health hazards posed by a variety of pollutants, including many common school supplies and art materials. The book includes information on current health standards and safety regulations, safety checklists, ventilation and risk reduction guidelines, and practical suggestions for choosing and using safe materials.
PLAY IT SAFE: Introduction to Theatre SafetyColor. 82 minutes in two acts. Theatre Arts Video Library, 174 Andrew Ave., Leucadia, CA. This video should be required viewing in every high school, camp, children's theater and theater arts program! A must-see for parents and teachers of young performers, especially those with asthma and allergies! The program includes injury prevention information about fire, chemical and physical hazards that should be part of every health education curriculum. It is also an entertaining way to learn about the health and safety laws that can help make every workplace safer -- including schools.
A TEAM APPROACH TO SCHOOL INDOOR AIR QUALITY PROBLEMS
Marcia Gallagher, President, Breathless, Inc., BREATHLESS PIPELINE, March/April 1994, Adapted and Reprinted with Permission. V. 3 21 09 by Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed., www.healthy-kids.info
In the spring of 1993, a parent attending a parent group meeting expressed her concerns about the high rate of illness at Haverhill's 105-year old Cogswell Elementary School.
Students and teachers seemed to be having a lot of colds, sneezing, sore throats, and headaches, and two children had been recently diagnosed with asthma.
Following the meeting, Joanne Morrow, principal of the Cogswell and Greenleaf Elementary Schools, notified the Haverhill Board of Health.
On May 13, James Tremblay did a visual evaluation of the building. He reported that he saw no defects that might explain the health problems. Joanne trusted the Board of Health and its report.
In early November, 1993, a group of parents at the Cogswell School called the office of Breathless, Inc., an asthma advocacy organization, to discuss their feeling that the "Second Floor Syndrome" was not being taken seriously.
When Breathless.Inc. founder, Marcia Gallagher first contacted Principal Morrow, she was concerned that parents had gone to an outside organization for help. Gallagher emphasized that Breathless was eager to be a resource to both school officials and parents.
Gallagher also urged Morrow to get a written report of the Board of Health's inspection results because parents felt that the lack of a written report was the sign of a "cover-up."
Gallagher learned that the town building department had also done an inspection and after finding "no structural defects" they suggested that the school department call the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air Quality Division to obtain a list of air quality experts.
Gallagher met with Joanne on November 9 and showed her a resource that she thought would help, "RX for Sick Schools: An Environmental Action Kit," developed by Ellie Goldberg, founder of www.healthy-kids.info, an information and educational consulting service. The Kit promotes an in-house team approach to identifying and addressing air quality problems.
Information in the Kit is based on the EPA's Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers. The Kit includes a "School Walk-Through Checklist" designed to help volunteers evaluate classrooms and other school areas.
The next evening Gallagher attended the Cogswell Parent/Teacher Council meeting and participated in a discussion that helped build better communication and trust between Joanne and the parents. Morrow gave each parent a copy of the Board of Health's May 13 inspection findings and explained that, with no prior experience in environmental trouble-shooting, she hadn't realized the limits of a "visual inspection" or that more could be done.
Gallagher introduced the RX for Sick Schools Environmental Action Kit and recruited volunteers to do a "School Walk-Through."
The volunteer inspection team included Cogswell parents Patricia Visconte and Mary Ellen O'Dowd, Cogswell Site Council Representative Lynn Latorre, Principal Joanne Morrow, and Marcia Gallagher. They did the "Walk-Through" on November 19, 1993.
"The Walk-Through served two purposes," said Joanne Morrow. "It was a fact finding project and it empowered parents. It was a great team effort. I passed the Walk-Through checklists on to Elise Morse, at the Division of Occupational Hygiene, who did an official inspection on January 19, 1994. (The results of the inspection will be shared with parents as soon as it is available.)
Gallagher met with Morrow on February 8, 1994 and asked for her recommendations on handling school environmental concerns in the future.
Morrow suggested that parents should first report concerns to their child's teacher. The teachers should convey the information to the principal. The principal, as the person responsible for building safety, should then meet with parents to share resources, ideas and problem-solving strategies.
Good communication is the key. She advises other principals to build trust by taking parents' concerns seriously. Both parents and school principals can use the school parent-teacher organization and school-based councils to keep groups of parents up-to-date.
Everyone should keep in mind that resolving environmental quality concerns is a learning experience for everyone. There are many uncertainties. And, resolving issues takes time so everyone needs to be patient. During a typical day, a principal like Joanne Morrow faces an endless list of demands that compete for her time and attention.
Getting help from government agencies such as the local board of health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Labor and Industries, Division of Occupational Hygiene also takes time. Delays are frustrating for both parents and school officials.
The air quality problem of the Cogswell School is an ongoing concern of both parents and Principal Morrow. The good news is that confusion, mistrust and misunderstandings are no longer a problem.
One example of positive change is how quickly Morrow responded when Gallagher wrote to her about the crumbling walls, mold, dust and dirt in a basement room that was being used for testing students for special education services. The room is no longer being used.
As an asthma advocacy organization, Breathless was able to play a positive role in helping parents and school work together.
The world endures solely by virtue of the breath of school children. (Talmud)