By Sara Porter
The pandemic has made creating healthy school environments an urgent national priority and brought to light the serious under-investment in school facilities nationwide.
But the fact is, even before the pandemic, nearly half of U.S. schools reported indoor air quality problems that put the health of students and staff at risk.
Unhealthy indoor air, inadequate ventilation, and chemical exposure from cleaning and maintenance routines continue to present systemic challenges in school districts. On top of health concerns, these issues are linked to poor concentration and test performance in students, adding preventable barriers to achievement.
A Standard by and for Facility Professionals
School facility management professionals are vital stewards of school environments, making daily decisions that affect the health, safety and sustainability of places where students spend more than 1,000 hours a year. While they are experts at doing a lot with a little, budget realities mean these professionals often lack proper funding and resources for the essential work they do caring for students and staff.
That is why Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and Green Seal are creating the first national standard for healthy and sustainable school facilities – with a focus on measures that can make a big difference without major capital investments.
The draft Healthy Green Schools & Colleges standard was designed in partnership with the award-winning school facility directors on our Steering Committee, who know firsthand what facility professionals need on the ground.
The science-based standard is geared toward K-12 school districts and higher education institutions and designed to be accessible for schools across the spectrum, whether they are just getting started exploring environmental health and sustainability improvements or are already a leader.
The Tools to Transform School Environments
The Healthy Green Schools & Colleges standard is the centerpiece of a comprehensive program designed to support school facility management professionals.
A self-assessment tool will allow schools to objectively measure their current indoor environmental health and sustainability performance, while guidebooks, trainings and other tools will help them determine and take their next steps. Then, a points-based scoring system will encourage schools to keep improving at their own pace, with support from a network of facility management peers across the country who are on a similar journey.
Schools that reach the top level of achievement will be able to apply for third-party certification, earning public recognition for their verified expertise in providing healthy school environments.
Schools have a rare opportunity right now to focus on their facilities. The American Rescue Plan and 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act provided tens of billions for American schools, including funds that can be used for health- and sustainability focused facility upgrades.
The way that schools manage their facilities speaks to how they value their students, staff, and surrounding communities. HSC and Green Seal are committed to providing schools with the resources and network to ensure a quality of school facility that every student in America deserves.
We develop standards through an open and transparent process that includes extensive stakeholder outreach and opportunities for public input. The public comment period is now open. Please submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, July 16, 2021.
Featured photo: Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages