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Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT)

Section 1: Introduction

Reminder

Make frequent copies of your data file (BE_HSEAT.mdb).

1.1 Overview

1 For simplicity, EPA is using the term "district" to broadly describe any institutional system for managing multiple schools, whether they are public, private tribal, charter or some variation. While HealthySEAT is primarily geared toward K-12 school facilities, it may also be useful for colleges and universities as well as other types of buildings.

EPA has developed a unique software tool to help school districts1 evaluate and manage their school facilities for key environmental, safety and health issues. The Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT) is designed to be customized and used by district-level staff to conduct completely voluntary self-assessments of their school (and other) facilities and to track and manage information on environmental conditions school by school. In addition to powerful software that can be used by districts to track any facility issues it chooses, EPA has also included critical elements of its regulatory and voluntary programs for schools, as well as web links to more detailed information. Districts and others can download HealthySEAT at no cost from the EPA web site. HealthySEAT is meant to be loaded and used on district computers; once it is downloaded from the EPA web site, HealthySEAT can be customized and used as the district sees fit. There are no reporting requirements and no obligations to use the checklist EPA has provided.

1.2 Purpose of HealthySEAT

Numerous public, private, charter, and tribal schools in the United States contain hazards that may pose risks to children and staff. The guidance included in HealthySEAT can improve the health of students and staff by ensuring that potential environmental and safety hazards in schools are being properly managed. Examples of school environmental hazards include chemical releases, pesticide exposures, flaking lead paint, mold and other indoor air quality problems, and damaged asbestos-containing building materials.

HealthySEAT will help school districts identify and correct hazards before they result in:

  • Health problems in students and staff such as asthma attacks, lead poisoning, and other chemical exposures;
  • Productivity and performance losses in students and staff;
  • School closures due to spills, accidents, or other preventable environmental, health and safety issues;
  • Costly building clean-ups;
  • Regulatory enforcement actions by state or federal agencies; and
  • Community concern and resource-draining media attention.

In addition, HealthySEAT will help school districts:

  • Collect the kind of school- and hazard-specific data necessary to make a compelling case for needed renovation, repair and maintenance dollars; and
  • Demonstrate to the community that your district is committed to the health and safety of children and staff.

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1.3 Components of HealthySEAT

HealthySEAT consists of three primary components:

  1. a web page;
  2. this user’s manual; and
  3. the tracking software.

The web page, www.epa.gov/schools, provides information about HealthySEAT and allows school districts, states, and others to download HealthySEAT at no charge. Future updates to HealthySEAT can be obtained from this same web page. This user’s manual provides step-by-step instructions for customizing and using HealthySEAT. The tracking software helps districts manage all aspects of a district-wide assessment program, including generating letters to individual schools pre-and post assessment visit, tracking the status of facility conditions and corrective actions school-by-school, and creating and generating reports for district use.

From within the tracking software, the district can generate and print its own:

  • Customized Assessment Guidebook: While the default guidebook provided with HealthySEAT includes an extensive collection of assessment standards, districts may customize the guidebook by choosing which standards to include in their assessment program, as well as adding standards specific to state or local regulations. All aspects of the tool can be easily customized by school districts to reflect the programs and requirements specifically applicable to their schools. The resulting customized assessment guidebook can be printed, showing full details for all assessment standards included in the district’s assessment program. Section 4.2.1 of this user’s manual provides guidance on how to customize the assessment guidebook. Section 6 of this user’s manual provides guidance on how to generate a printed copy of the guidebook.
     
  • Master Checklist: A master assessment checklist can be printed once the assessment guidebook has been customized. It is simply a different way of presenting the assessment standards included in the assessment guidebook, and is thus affected by changes to the assessment guidebook. This master checklist can be used by assessors in the field to conduct comprehensive assessments of school facilities (see Section 6 of this user’s manual for instructions on printing the Master Checklist).
     
  • Custom Checklists (new in Version 2): More specific custom checklists can also be created and printed for special-purpose assessments (e.g., asbestos assessments). These custom checklists are subsets of the master checklist, and, like the master checklist, are affected by changes to the district’s assessment guidebook. Section 4.2.2 of this user’s manual provides guidance on how to create custom checklists.
     
  • Assessment Notification Letters: HealthySEAT includes a standard assessment notification letter, which is used for assessments based on the master checklist, and which can be edited. Additionally, beginning with Version 2, custom notification letters can be created and linked to custom checklists, thereby providing more specific information to school facilities about upcoming special assessments. Section 4.2.4 of this user’s manual provides guidance on adding and editing notification letters.

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1.4 Organization of HealthySEAT

The HealthySEAT software is organized into three primary functions, each of which is represented by a button on the Main Menu:

  • Customize for District: The Customize for District function allows districts to fully customize the tool for use, including adding its own name and district logo, facilities, assessors, and contacts for remediation, as well as tailoring the assessment program content to district policies, programs and priorities. Districts can also tailor the prioritization scheme included with the tool, customize letters and manage security features, among other administrative functions.
     
  • Manage School-Specific Assessments: The Manage School-Specific Assessments function allows districts to enter and store information about every assessment conducted at individual facilities, track the status of every recommendation, and generate customized letters and reports for individual schools pre-and post-visits.
     
  • Open Reports/Output Menu: The Open Reports/Output Menu function allows districts and other users to select from a variety of report options which organize and extract information from the database. Two example reports include Number of Open Recommendations by Facility and Recommendations Details by Facility.

While HealthySEAT is designed to allow full customization of the content by school districts, the software comes pre-loaded with a checklist that covers a wide array of issues that school districts may wish to assess for each of their schools. The checklist is organized by the physical areas of the school to be assessed, the issue-specific topics and subtopics for each area of the school, and specific assessment standards representing the positive conditions an assessor would look for in each area of the school facility.

In addition to information on EPA programs, HealthySEAT also includes information on safety, health and injury prevention, including:

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) comprehensive Safety Checklist Program for Schools, which contains recommendations as well as detailed checklists on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations which may be applicable to schools;
  • Centers for Disease Control, Division of Adolescent and School Health recommendations based on the CDC/DASH School Health Index; and
  • Department of Education Safe and Drug Free Schools Crisis Management program.

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1.5 Intended Uses of HealthySEAT

HealthySEAT is intended primarily as a tool for school districts to use to periodically evaluate their school facilities at a macro level to be sure that all of the essential elements of key programs are being properly managed school-by-school. Districts choose the frequency with which they will conduct assessments, though EPA recommends that an assessment be conducted at each school at least annually. Districts may conduct the assessments using district staff, school-based staff, contractors, or a combination, depending on their particular circumstances and available resources.

The HealthySEAT software is designed specifically to manage information on multiple facilities. For this reason, the software itself is not intended to be used by individual schools. However, the customized checklist and guidebook developed by the district will be a potentially valuable resource for school-based as well as district staff.

It is important to note that HealthySEAT is not a substitute for the day-to-day vigilance and good practice that is required at every school to effectively manage environmental, safety and health issues in a manner that protects children, staff and the environment at all times.

Many states and school districts are already undertaking or encouraging school facility assessments, and EPA has designed HealthySEAT so that these states and districts can easily incorporate their own checklists into the software. During and after the customization process, a simple toggle switch allows districts to view and use either the district-customized program or EPA-included assessment standards.

EPA strongly encourages states to work across the appropriate state agencies to incorporate state requirements into HealthySEAT to help reduce the duplication of effort required for each district to independently research state requirements.

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