Resources and Tools Announced for Healthy School Environments

DENVER, Colo. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the availability of nearly $30 million to support safe drinking water and cleaner air. EPA is making $20 million available for states and tribes to test for lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities. At the same time, EPA is announcing approximately $9 million in rebates to public school bus fleet owners to help them replace older school buses with cleaner, more modern vehicles.

In addition to the newly announced resources, EPA has guidance, recommendations, and programs available to support schools in ensuring clean, healthy, and environmentally conscious school communities.

"Our schools reflect the best of our communities," said EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento. "EPA offers a variety of resources to help school administrators and parents provide safe places to learn and educate students about environmental stewardship."

A healthy school community starts with traveling to and from school. When safe, walking or biking to school can help children meet the recommended physical activity levels on weekdays, while helping to reduce traffic, lower pollutants and save money. Clean school buses and anti-idling policies for buses, passenger vehicles and delivery trucks help reduce emissions in and outside schools. The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, School Siting Guidelines and Idle-Free Schools Toolkit are useful resources to establish and maintain a responsible transportation program for your school.

Inside and out, it’s important to understand how school communities can be protective of health. From recess to organized sports, knowing the outdoor air quality is important. Understanding how the building’s air system works, how the school is cleaned and how teachers set up their classrooms is important in considering the indoor air quality.

Knowing the outdoor air quality helps schools identify steps to take to protect students from pollutants that can negatively affect health. Participating in the Air Quality Flag Program is a simple way to get your school community involved in knowing and understanding local air quality. This is especially valuable in the mountain west with high instances of wildfires.

Ensuring a healthy indoor learning environment reduces absenteeism, improves test scores, and enhances student and staff productivity. When considering indoor air quality, it is important to know about radon, which is prevalent in the plains and mountain states. The Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program is a great place to start or get a refresher!

EPA strongly encourages schools to test for lead in drinking water. EPA has developed a tool kit called the 3Ts for reducing lead in drinking water for schools to use as guidance.

When cleaning and using chemicals in science classes, teachers, school administrators and facility managers can look for EPA’s Safer Choice Label and apply the Toolkit for Safe Chemical Management in K-12 Schools.

Saving resources and reducing waste can be accomplished throughout the school. Facility-level efforts including integrating Energy Star and WaterSense can save money for schools and districts. Schools can participate in a food waste audit and implement strategies to feed children and the community while reducing waste. Students and teachers can pack a waste-free lunch. Make sure to pack only what you can eat, reuse, recycle or compost. Reusable or compostable bags can be a good choice to carry or cover your lunch items.

As temperatures dip throughout the plains and the mountain west, managing pests in and around school facilities is essential to maintaining a healthy learning environment free of pests and unnecessary exposure to pesticides. To minimize health risks to students and staff, an Integrated Pest Management approach includes adopting preventative measures and choosing the lower-risk methods of pest removal and prevention.

SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency