Pollution in american public schools

Pollution in American Public Schools

As a life-long educator and future superintendent, I have witnessed a multitude of physical buildings that house the American school child. Some of them are new buildings with beautiful architecture, while others have been 100-year old small rural schools. Public schools are a source of allergens, germs and environmental nuances that affect the quality of the child’s daily life. This year, the main threat to many schools was the MRSA virus. With some schools closing down and others experiencing declining attendance due to this particular disease alone, valuable attendance dollars were dwindled down. With the school budget being one of the main concerns of many superintendents, when the attendance is down, so is the budget.

I worked in one 100-year old school house. What a charming place that was! I thought it was «Little House on the Prairie» as I romanticized the entire experience. But…what was lurking in the walls besides all the dust??? Mold…yes…you don’t make it to 100 without getting a little water damage here and there. Part of the school was condemned, yet, one would have to walk through the condemned area on a daily basis to retrieve daily mailbox messages and also, the teacher’s workroom was there. Fortunately, they did get a new school; so that was taken care of….or was it?

New schools and the building supplies that are used to build them emit mega doses of contaminants. Now we have «Sick Building Syndrome» which Wikipedia describes ….»as flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Other causes have been attributed to contaminants produced by outgassing of some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds, molds (molds again???) improper exhaust ventilation of light industrial chemicals used within, or fresh-air intake location / lack of adequate air filtration (see Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). » (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_building_syndrome). How are the children suppose to handle the contaminates at a new school?

Traditionally, the overhead lights are enough to distract even normal school children with the ongoing flickering, buzzing and vibrations. Many autistic children are not able to be in classrooms and moms may keep them home knowing that the buzzing sets off their child. This lighting may influence seizure and tic disorders. ADHD children are distracted by the frequencies, too. Our children, as a whole, are becoming highly sensitized to many conditions that perhaps fifty years ago would not bother a child. Schools need to address the needs of all children and with the fact that this is becoming so common, we need to do what is in the best interest for all children and provide the proper type of lighting that does not cause adverse reactions.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk into a room, I notice how clean it is. When I look at the walls and see stains and marks and then look at the floor and a layer of dirt on the baseboard, I think dirt, plain and simple. You have no idea how many substitute teaching jobs I walked into and observed filth on a regular basis. Children breathe the dust and overall, it sets a very bad example.

So what are public schools suppose to do to deal with this health threat? With No Child Left Behind and the English Language Learner demands, school districts are at a premium to make their own budgets without the additional expenses of dealing with many of these issues. Obvious dirty classrooms or facilities are the responsibility of the building administrator. The child has a right to be educated in a safe environment, so yes, we must focus on the health of the school building to ensure the health of our children. There are air purifiers that would possibly be the answer to some of the problems. Buying the right air purifier for the school could be explored. Some air purifiers are built to kill germs, mold, viruses and bacteria, besides filtering dust, and pollens. Purchasing several purification systems would only pay for themselves in the long run with the money a school or business (even hospitals) would save on illnesses or closures due to MRSA or other diseases. There are proven laboratory studies to back the germ killing claims with certain brands.

High stakes tests would likewise benefit from a clean air test sitting. Who knows, test scores may rise because children are not sneezing from the allergens of dust mites or pollen in the classroom and are able to concentrate fully on the exam.

Finding money in the budget will be the most difficult part of the equation. With that being said, I am realistic enough to know that this is not going to be a major concern for the school board’s agenda. I think it may take parent groups to get together and brainstorm what they can best do to raise money to purchase the air purifiers.

Good luck with your project of having a “SAFE AND HEALTHY SCHOOL”.

Diane Siers

School administrator and future superintendent


Recommended air purifier: http://www.westcoastaircare.com

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