Sharing resources from a recent NASBE webinar

NASBE (National Association of State Boards of Education) reprised a session from the October annual conference that explored school environmental conditions impeding student learning. Discussion focused on indoor/outdoor environments, quality of water, official efforts in Michigan to improve conditions for their students, and review of policy levers state boards of ed can use to keep students safe from environmental hazards in schools.

I was sorry my state Board colleague from the mitten state, Pamela Pugh, was unable to make the webinar (she works in Flint and was scheduled to take part), but the other two presenters, Claire Barnett, Coalition for Healthier Schools, and Matt Vallevand, Detroit Health Department, had excellent presentations.

I was pleased to see this offered as a webinar, as I had been in a Board Meeting at the time of the session at the annual conference. Most of the links from the webinar have been added at the bottom of this post.

Since viewing the webinar, much of the information from Claire's presentation has haunted me, including:

  • Children are not just little adults: because of their size, children absorb indoor pollutants at a much higher rate than adults
  • Risks to children's health at school include the indoor and outdoor environment:
    • contaminants on ground sites
    • indoor air quality
      • mold
      • moisture
      • pests, pesticides, etc.
    • lead, PCBs, asbestos: these are in many schools, especially any with an average age of 50+ years
    • decades of deferred maintenance leading to failing systems
    • renovations and reconstruction in occupied buildings (which creates new indoor/outdoor pollutants)
  • Climate change affects children and schools
  • National Data Summary (data rich - begins p.7 HERE):
    • There are more children in public schools today
      • More children with special needs in them
      • More children with asthma
      • More children in meal programs
    • Less money for public schools
      • fewer staff
I wasn't surprised to learn that State Education Agencies (SEAs) alone don't have the capacity to address school, physical environments. At DESE, for example, there is no "facilities office" and the Massachusetts School Building Authority is focused on "statements of interest" proposals for rebuilding or renovating schools, not on the maintenance of existing schools, which falls within the local school committee's purview.

However, at the state level, best practices for healthy schools may be advanced collaboratively with state health, environmental, and energy agencies (though, these agencies seem inadequate to me as I look through their links, especially given the bullet above about children not being little adults, and that schools serve as particular environments for them).

NASBE has made the recording available for any who may be interested in it: Water Quality - Addressing the Environmental Hazards that Lurk in Schools and Impede Student Learning is available HERE.
- - - - -
Links to Resources Referred to in the Webinar:

Healthy Schools Network

Lead in School Drinking Water: Guide for Parents and Others:

National Healthy Schools Day:

Toward Healthy Schools: Reducing Risks to Children


Student Health and Academic Performance:

Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids:

City of Detroit

Testing Results in Schools and Childcare Centers: