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Kent and Spokane schools honored for improving air quality for children

Release Date: 12/2/2004
Contact Information: Mark MacIntyre
(206) 553-7203

December 2, 2004

In recognition of their efforts to improve indoor air quality at school, The Kent School District (KSD) and the Spokane Public Schools (SPS) are among 12 schools and districts selected to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) 2004 Excellence Award. According to EPA, indoor pollutants in schools can have a variety of associated health risks, including headaches, nausea, respiratory problems and asthma. The schools were recognized at the 5th Annual IAQ TfS National Symposium in Washington, DC, on December 2, 2004.

The Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Excellence Award is EPA’s most prestigious award recognizing exemplary indoor air quality programs and commitment to providing a healthy learning environment for students and staff. The Excellence Award Winners are selected from hundreds of schools and districts nationwide that have implemented IAQ management programs and seen dramatic improvements in indoor air quality.

“Children spend a significant amount of time in schools,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Jeff Holmstead. “We want to ensure that our nation’s schools are free of indoor environmental pollutants and irritants that may affect the health and productivity of students and staff. Schools that have implemented Indoor Air Quality improvements as recommended by our Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program continue to see positive results.”

In 1995, EPA developed the voluntary IAQ TfS Kit and Program in response to government studies highlighting the deteriorating conditions of the nation’s schools and the alarming rise in asthma cases, particularly among school and preschool age children. Asthma alone accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. Today, one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma. The IAQ TfS Kit is a flexible, comprehensive resource designed to help school staff identify, resolve, and prevent IAQ problems and is available to schools at no cost. Currently, an estimated 25,000 schools and school districts across the country are utilizing the Kit.

Approximately 500 school representatives; health specialists; technical and environmental experts; federal, state, and local government personnel; and non-profit organization members participated in the 2004 Symposium. Participants discussed how to implement IAQ programs in a school setting, including communications strategies, mold remediation, facilities management and school building design, student performance, financing and asthma management.

Below is a summary of the winning programs in Spokane and Kent.
Kent School District, Kent, WA Contact: Beth Gilbertson, (253) 373-7052

The success of Kent School District (KSD) is largely a result of constant and innovative communication. Indoor Air Quality(IAQ) information is included in the orientation program for new administrative staff. Custodians receive semi-annual training. All employees receive a weekly electronic newsletter featuring tips on preventing and identifying IAQ problems. Engaging parents has also been a priority. When an IAQ issue has a potential impact on a group of students, their parents are notified by letter and automated phone message with key medical information and a clear explanation of how the problem is to be addressed. Last year, KSD received a “Leadership” Award from EPA.

Spokane Public Schools, Spokane, WA Contact: Larry Hagel, (509) 353-5274

Spokane Public Schools (SPS) face challenges associated with a series of 30-year-old school buildings with similar designs and chronic IAQ problems stemming from inadequate ventilation and other design issues. In the early nineties, the tensions caused by continual IAQ issues affected staff morale and the learning environment. With the introduction of the IAQ TfS Program in 1995, SPS identified many solutions to their problems, from best practices in new buildings to avoidance of allergy triggers. With school nurses emphasizing the health issues for students and a Citizen’s Advisory Committee with members from each school, SPS helped create a constructive environment for problem-solving. Spokane’s involvement with the American Association of School Administrators’ (AASA) Urban Resource Coalition rejuvenated the IAQ management process in the district. The growing public understanding of the nature of IAQ problems facilitated the passage of bonds to finance long-term solutions through HVAC and other capital upgrades.

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