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Coordinator's Guide for Indoor Air Quality: Section 2

A Guide to Implementing an IAQ Program

Note: A PDF version of this publication is available.

Section 2 - Develop an IAQ Tools for Schools Program

An effective IAQ program can help schools or school districts address IAQ issues quickly and effectively and create a healthier learning environment for staff and students. The program should be tailored to the specific needs of your school or school district, as the organizational and physical structures of schools vary. Although the administrative process of "who" and "when" is flexible, it is important that the major individual activities be completed.

By following the 11 steps presented below, schools and districts can implement a successful IAQ Tools for Schools Program.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with IAQ Issues and the IAQ Tools for Schools Program
  2. Commit to and Gain Support for an IAQ Program
  3. Select an IAQ Coordinator
  4. Form an IAQ Team
  5. Gather Information on IAQ and the School
  6. Distribute IAQ Checklists
  7. Review the Checklists
  8. Complete the Walkthrough
  9. Identify, Prioritize, and Resolve Problems
  10. Establish IAQ Policies and Management Plan
  11. Assess Results and Communicate Success

Start-Up Hints

In addition to completing the coordinator's forms provided in Appendix A:

  1. Obtain a map/blueprint of the school. This will be an invaluable resource as you implement your IAQ program.
  2. Make a copy of any existing school policies and building specifications/codes, such as anti-idling policies or rules about where the school buses must park for student drop-off/pick-up.
  3. Count the number of staff and their job categories (for example, the number of teachers and the number of maintenance staff). You’ll need this information to distribute checklists.
  4. Gather names and contact information for any of the school’s outside contractors, such as:
    • Maintenance staff
    • Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning contractors
    • bus fleet operators
  5. Secure support from the school and/or school district administration.
  6. Read the IAQ Coordinator’s Guide, especially this section: “Develop an IAQ Tools for Schools Program.”
  7. Meet with your school’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) technician to acquire a working knowledge of the various ventilation units at your school. Learn which systems serve which rooms.
  8. Meet with the custodial staff to form a better understanding of their:
    • Tasks
    • Maintenance schedules
    • Equipment inventory
    • and resources (budgets)
  9. Meet with school bus fleet administrators/operators to learn about the buses in the fleet,
    • Model year
    • Mileage
    • Safety features
    • Replacement schedules
  10. Set up a location for turning in checklists and a filing system for all the paperwork you will generate. Keep it in a convenient location. (Portable file boxes work nicely.)
  11. Set up an IAQ Resource Center at your school in an area where staff members can access information at their leisure. This is also a great place to post important reminders and communicate with staff.

By following the 11 steps presented below, schools and districts can implement a successful IAQ Tools for Schools Program.

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1. Familiarize Yourself With IAQ Issues and the IAQ Tools for Schools Program

Note for Districts

It is important to develop active IAQ management programs for all district schools. Make Action Kits available to each school and encourage everyone to become familiar with the IAQ Tools for Schools resources. Begin to organize how the district will handle and respond to IAQ problems.

It is essential for schools and districts to recognize good IAQ as a top priority and commit to improving IAQ and ensuring a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

Review the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit. The first step for schools interested in launching an IAQ program is to review the contents of the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit. The Action Kit will help you understand basic IAQ issues in schools, how the program works and how everyone can play a role.

Watch the Videos. The Taking Action & Ventilation Basics video included in the Action Kit provides information on:

  • Why IAQ is important
  • The IAQ Tools for Schools Program
  • How to begin a program
  • and how school ventilation systems (which are integral to IAQ issues) operate

The IAQ Walkthrough Video (included in the Action Kit) illustrates some of the most common IAQ problems found in schools, and is ideal for schools that are beginning to implement an IAQ program.

Find a Mentor. Obtain firsthand knowledge from other schools and districts experienced with the IAQ Tools for Schools Program. They may be able to help you design and implement a program that meets your school’s specific needs.

After reviewing the Action Kit and videos, you should be ready to kick off your IAQ program. This Guide, along with the sample memos and checklists included in Appendix A, provide you with the organizational tools necessary to implement a successful IAQ program. Gaining support or “buy in” from school officials and committees, choosing an IAQ Coordinator and assembling an IAQ Team are key components of this program.

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2. Commit to and Gain Support for Your IAQ Program

Note for Districts

Identify interested principals and building managers in individual schools who would be willing to initiate and/or lead IAQ improvements. Conduct training sessions for all IAQ contacts as well as school faculty and staff to familiarize them with the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit. Districts may find it easier to incorporate these training sessions into scheduled general staff or district meetings.

To implement an effective IAQ program, schools often need the support of:

  • Superintendents
  • School boards
  • Facility management directors
  • Business or financial officers

In fact, obtaining buy-in from highest levels of school district administration is often essential to secure the funds necessary to the long-term success of an IAQ program. The top levels of administration have the authority to ensure that the school staff have the proper incentive and resources to carry out an IAQ program.

Most IAQ Tools for Schools activities have specifically been designed to have minimal impact on the school budget and time resources of school staff. Some of the actions associated with implementing this guidance, however, may need to be coordinated with specific school committees (such as health and safety committee) or groups (such as unions or the local PTA). It may be useful to provide a briefing to these committees and groups as well as to the highest levels of school or district administration using information from this Action Kit (e.g., the IAQ Backgrounder, Sections 1 and 3 of the IAQ Reference Guide).

All school personnel can potentially be affected by IAQ and will be better advocates of the school’s IAQ program if they understand the health effects associated with poor IAQ. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct a training session for all school employees to familiarize them with the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit and their role in improving IAQ.

Remember that implementing an IAQ management program is an on-going process, not an overnight miracle. Be patient, consistent, organized and never forget that you are doing something important for staff and students at your school.

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3. Select an IAQ Coordinator

Note for Districts

The IAQ Coordinator in school districts may be a district-level administrative person, such as the business official, a health and safety officer, or the facilities manager. The IAQ Coordinator should designate IAQ contacts at each school in the district (or regional contacts) to enable the district’s IAQ Team to have an on-site manager for IAQ concerns at each school (or region). The contacts may choose to create IAQ Teams in their respective schools to support their IAQ efforts.

The primary role of the IAQ Coordinator is team management and leadership. Leading people is an important function of the IAQ Coordinator because people both affect and are affected by the quality of indoor air. IAQ Team members and the rest of the school staff can share most of the day-to-day work. For example, others can assist with copying and distributing the IAQ Backgrounder and IAQ checklists and summarizing checklist responses. Delegation of activities to the IAQ Team members helps ensure that people in the school understand their role. Because no one person is overly burdened, the program is more likely to take off and succeed.

IAQ Coordinator's functions graphic

The primary IAQ Coordinator functions include:

Team Leadership: Coordinates an “IAQ Team,” as shown in the figure above, and encourages a sense of shared responsibility and cooperative effort. Provides the Team with information and educational opportunities and, in coordination with the IAQ Team, implements the IAQ Management Plan (Section 3).

Emergency Response: Ensures that the school is prepared for emergency response, as outlined in the IAQ Management Plan. Follows the guidance and makes decisions as outlined in “Resolving IAQ Problems” (Sections 4-6 of the IAQ Reference Guide). Determines if and when outside professional assistance is needed and coordinates activities.

Key Authority: Disseminates IAQ information, registers IAQ complaints and directs responses and communicates IAQ issues and status to:

  • School administration
  • Staff
  • Students
  • Parents
  • The press

The IAQ Coordinator should, therefore, be familiar with the importance of good IAQ and the IAQ issues facing the school (Sections 1-2 of the IAQ Reference Guide).

The selection of an IAQ Coordinator depends on the organizational structure of your school system. Often, the IAQ Coordinator is a

  • Principal
  • School nurse
  • Teacher
  • Facility manager
  • Another staff member

Since most school staff have busy schedules, providing an incentive (such as a stipend) may help schools recruit the most qualified person.

The ability to carry out necessary functions, level of leadership and genuine interest in improving the indoor environment in the school(s) should drive the choice of the IAQ Coordinator. In any event, success depends on selecting someone who can manage the Team and who is empowered to take action. This includes authority to:

  • Interact with
    • District-level administration
    • School staff
    • Students
    • and parents
  • To make budget recommendations

The IAQ Coordinator does not have to be an “expert” in IAQ issues. By using the information in this Action Kit, the IAQ Coordinator and all team members will learn about IAQ as the work progresses. The IAQ Reference Guide and the IAQ Coordinator’s Guide, in particular, will help the IAQ Coordinator become familiar with IAQ issues in schools and provide a basic understanding of the IAQ management plan process and effective communication.

Some schools and districts share the responsibilities of the IAQ Coordinator by having a co-coordinator or by delegating many of the administrative tasks to an IAQ Team or an existing health and safety committee. Independent of who is acting as the team leader, it is fundamentally important that staff and students have the opportunity to learn about the basics of indoor air quality (IAQ Backgrounder) so that their daily decisions and activities (IAQ checklists) will prevent and not cause indoor air problems.

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4. Form an IAQ Team

In most schools using this Action Kit, a committed team works with the IAQ Coordinator to implement the IAQ Tools for Schools Program. This team, which is led by the IAQ Coordinator, can (and probably should) include representatives from nine distinct groups:

Note for Districts

Ensure that members of the IAQ Team adequately represent the entire district. Ideally, individuals who are part of this Team should be key players in the implementation of the IAQ Tools for Schools Program. IAQ Team members should include at least one individual with the authority to make district-wide decisions.

  1. Teachers and Principals play a strong role because they have daily interaction with students, access to parents and knowledge of classroom issues. These staff members are the eyes and the ears of the school and, therefore, are invaluable for identifying and monitoring IAQ issues.
  2. Administrative and Support Staff have knowledge about unique pollutant sources, such as printing areas, and any ventilation problems in areas with pollutant sources.
  3. Facility Operators have knowledge about ventilation systems and their requirements. Their specific expertise is essential to develop a good IAQ plan and to prevent and resolve IAQ problems.
  4. Custodians see the day-to-day condition of the school. Their involvement with the IAQ Team is crucial, as they play such an important role in maintaining the school’s buildings and grounds.
  5. Health Officers/School Nurses know the status of student health. Their knowledge of specific health problems and their ability to track health problems and use of medication allows them to monitor and recognize trends in reported illnesses. These trends may provide an early warning of IAQ problems. In addition, they can educate students and staff about asthma triggers and provide validation that IAQ can affect the health of students and staff.
  6. School Board Representatives can help obtain the authority and funding necessary to support IAQ efforts.
  7. School Transportation Officials can ensure that anti-idling policies are enforced and that school bus fleets meet current pollution control standards.
  8. Contract Service Providers have specific areas of expertise that can help schools complete necessary activities without degrading IAQ. Examples of these activities include:
    • Pesticide application
    • Bus fleet management and operation
    • Renovation work (such as roofing)
    • and maintenance of ventilation equipment and air filters
  9. Students are exposed to and spend time in many areas of the school on a daily basis. They can help identify problems in the school that affect their health and safety and research solutions. In one school, for example, students researched the impact of various floor coverings on IAQ and raised funds to purchase high-performance carpet and linoleum for their classroom. Parents have various areas of expertise and skills that can help improve the learning environment of their children and promote the school's IAQ efforts.

The Team can also include individuals from the community, such as local environmental or health department staff; volunteers from local businesses who have special skills, such as commercial building engineers; or organizations that have a strong interest in securing proper IAQ in the school system.

Each team member may want to read the IAQ Coordinator’s Guide and the IAQ Reference Guide for more detailed information on IAQ and on the process of using this Action Kit to prevent, identify and resolve IAQ problems in the school.

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5. Gather Information on IAQ and the School

Researching the school’s history with important IAQ topics in mind will help to focus your IAQ efforts. Such topics include:

  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Integrated pest management (IPM)
  • Lead
  • and mobile sources of pollutants

After establishing the history, the next step involves assessing the current status of these issues in the school.

Developing and implementing standard procedures to gather and track information will ensure consistency in the data, and keeping the information organized in a central, stable location (such as in the building manager’s office) will make it easier to locate data in the future. There are many methods available to schools for gathering information about IAQ in your buildings. For example, schools should consider impacts on IAQ from any recent changes to the school building or areas near the building (for example, construction of highways or other buildings), the school schedule or activities, or to occupants. Sample considerations include:

  • Has flooding occurred? Look and smell for mold growth and an increase in IAQ complaints in flooded areas.
  • Are there night or weekend classes? Check time clock settings on the ventilation system(s) for areas where these classes are held.
  • Have new staff been added? Update them on your IAQ program and activities.
  • Has enrollment increased or decreased?
  • Have ventilation systems been modified? Did this result in proper fresh air intake?
Checklist Packet Graphic

Asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber commonly used in building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. If undamaged and unlikely to be disturbed, asbestos should be left alone. Disturbing asbestos materials through building renovations or asbestos removal can release asbestos fibers into the air, potentially leading to inhalation and accumulation within the lungs. Over time, a buildup of asbestos fibers embedded within the lung tissue may lead to serious lung diseases including asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring that can be fatal), lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings). Under the 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), all public primary and secondary schools are required to re-inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building materials every 3 years. Inspections must be conducted by EPA-certified asbestos inspectors. For more information on AHERA or asbestos:

Consider the following questions regarding your asbestos status:

  • Is there a blueprint available that clearly identifies the location of asbestos-containing materials within the school?
  • Has a responsible party been designated by the school district to perform and delegate, if necessary, the management of asbestos in the school building?
  • Is a copy of the school’s asbestos management plan kept in the school’s administrative office?

Radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in almost all soil and rock. Radon can enter schools through cracks or other openings in their foundations. Radon is second only to smoking as the main cause of lung cancer in America. EPA provides free guidance on how to perform testing and recommends that all schools test for the presence of radon. For information on how to test for radon and how to reduce radon within your school:

Consider the following questions regarding your current radon status:

  • Has testing for radon been completed?
  • If needed, has a radon mitigation system been installed?
  • Are all radon mitigation systems operating properly?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Several of the activities in the checklists affect the number of pests in your school by restricting the availability of food and water. EPA recommends that schools use IPM, an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that uses a combination of common-sense practices. IPM can reduce the use of chemicals and provide economical and effective pest suppression.

For details on IPM, see

Consider the following questions regarding your current pest control program:

  • Are IPM principles being applied in all areas of your school or district?
  • Are staff using pest control chemicals in accordance with instructions?
  • Are spot-treatments of pesticides used to control obviously infested areas instead of widespread, indiscriminate applications?

Lead. Lead causes various problems, particularly for children and pregnant women. Contact with lead-containing dust particles is a potential concern during renovation or repair of surfaces with lead-based paint. Lead poisoning can affect children’s developing nervous systems, causing learning disabilities and reduced IQ. Guidelines for proper removal of lead are available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). See Appendix L: “Resources” in the IAQ Reference Guide.

Consider the following questions regarding your school’s current lead status:

  • Has lead contamination been assessed in your school?
  • Is a lead control or removal program in place?
  • Will any upcoming renovation work affect surfaces painted with lead-based paint?

Lab Chemicals and Other Toxics. Mercury. Mercury is found in products such as:

  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Thermostats
  • Thermometers
  • Barometers
  • Batteries
  • and electrical switches and relays

Mercury can permanently damage the brain and kidneys, especially in developing fetuses. Exposure can occur through inhalation of vapors, skin contact (if mercury is accidentally spilled or leaked), or while using chemicals containing mercury. There are now non-mercury or low-mercury product substitutes. If a mercury spill or leak occurs, contact your local health department immediately.

Consider the following questions regarding your school’s current mercury status:

  • Does your school have an emergency plan in case of a mercury spill?
  • Will you conduct a mercury identification and removal effort?
  • Have you checked your chemical storage areas and science rooms to remove unnecessary bulk mercury or mercury containing chemicals? Are those areas secure?

PCBs. PCBs were widely used as coolants and lubricants in such devices as transformers, capacitors and ballasts (a component of fluorescent light fixtures) until PCBs were banned in 1978. PCBs may cause

  • Cancer
  • Immunological
  • Reproductive
  • Neurological
  • Liver
  • and kidney damage

Exposures in schools are most likely to come from leaky fluorescent lighting fixtures installed prior to 1980. PCBs and associated wastes are regulated under the Toxics Substance and Control Act as well as various state laws.

Consider the following questions regarding your school’s current PCB status:

  • Were your fluorescent light fixtures installed prior to 1980?
  • Are there any signs of leaks around the fluorescent light fixtures?

Chemicals. A high diversity of hazardous chemicals,

  • Toxic
  • Reactive
  • Corrosive
  • and explosive

can be found in:

  • Science classrooms
  • Labs
  • Art classrooms
  • Storage rooms
  • As well as used in building and grounds maintenance (e.g., cleaning and pest control)

Many are often outdated or unknown, posing a particularly dangerous situation in the event of a fire. Schools may inadvertently purchase chemicals in excessive amounts, store them incorrectly and dispose of them improperly. Exposure to these chemicals can occur during normal use and when they spill or leak.

Consider the following questions regarding your school’s current chemical status:

  • Has your school conducted a chemical inventory and clean-out recently?
  • Does your school have a chemical management plan in place?

Motor Vehicles and Equipment. Mobile sources, such as buses, cars and lawnmowers, emit air pollutants that penetrate indoors through air intakes and open windows. Mobile source pollution is also a potential problem outdoors on school grounds and for children traveling on school buses. Several studies suggest that exposure to vehicle emissions — especially diesel exhaust — can aggravate asthma and cause other serious respiratory problems. Idling of buses during pick-up and drop-off is particularly problematic. Detailed information about reducing mobile source emissions in and around schools is presented in Appendix I: “Mobile Sources” in the IAQ Reference Guide.

Consider all aspects of transportation on your school grounds, including:

  • How many buses are in your school’s bus fleet? How old are the buses? What is the replacement schedule for old buses?
  • How many people drive to school? Is there a public bus stop or commuter train nearby?
  • Do buses or other vehicles (e.g., delivery trucks) idle near the school? Is there a policy in place and enforced that prohibits buses and cars from idling near doors, windows and air intakes?

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6. Distribute IAQ Checklists

This Action Kit provides various checklists to help the IAQ Team develop a profile of the school’s current IAQ (including known or potential indoor and outdoor sources), prevent potential IAQ problems and resolve problems as they arise.

The IAQ Team may wish to introduce the checklist packets during a meeting with school faculty and staff. The Team should copy and distribute the following information to the appropriate staff members:

IAQ Backgrounder. This backgrounder will provide all IAQ Team and staff members with a summary of important issues regarding IAQ. It includes:

  • A definition of IAQ
  • Why IAQ is important
  • Basic problems and control methods
  • The team approach
  • and strategies for communication

Graphics are included to clarify ventilation issues in classrooms.

IAQ Checklists. The checklists provide detailed, yet simple, IAQ activities for each type of space in the school. These activities are based on the unique functions and locations of:

  • Teachers
  • Administrative staff
  • School officials
  • Facility operators
  • Custodians
  • Health officers
  • School nurses
  • and contract service providers

Each activity deals with a specific pollutant source or ventilation issue. A Checklist Log, located in Appendix A, is provided to assist in summarizing the data from the completed checklists. All checklists can be revised to address the specific needs of your school or district. See Appendix A.

School Memo (optional). For school staff, the memo or letter carries the school administration’s request that staff members perform the activities as specified in their individual information packets. For the school board, contract service providers, students and parents, the memo introduces the IAQ Backgrounder and notifies recipients that the school has undertaken an IAQ management program. Several sample memos that can be adapted to your school’s needs are included in Appendix A: “IAQ Coordinator’s Forms”.

Information packets for parents and local media may contain the memo and IAQ Backgrounder.

Checklist Interval. To help maintain good IAQ, it is important to establish a checklist interval. The IAQ Coordinator’s Checklist should be completed twice each year, starting with the beginning of the school year. Midway through the school year, such as during winter break, is an appropriate time for the second checkup.

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7. Review the Checklists

Note for Districts

The checklist results will help districts prioritize schools for walkthroughs. Address schools with more pressing IAQ problems first.

The information provided by the checklists is essential to the success of the IAQ program and can help schools focus their efforts during their walkthrough. While all the checklists provide useful information on IAQ in schools, the checklists that are essential for building an effective IAQ management plan include:

  • Walkthrough
  • Ventilation
  • Teachers
  • and building and grounds maintenance.

The IAQ Coordinator should record all completed checklists on the Checklist Log and review all information. Make a list of irregularities for review during the walkthrough inspection. A blueprint/ layout of the school may be useful for tracking the location of health problems and determining where pollutant sources exist. Some schools share the results of the checklists by presenting them at school PTA meetings or by placing them on the school’s internal or Internet site.

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8. Complete the Walkthrough

Completing the Walkthrough Inspection Checklist is an essential component for identifying IAQ problems in a school. Watch the IAQ Walkthrough Video included in the Action Kit before conducting an inspection. The video demonstrates how to conduct a walkthrough and complete the Walkthrough Inspection Checklist.

The walkthrough is not intended to be an intensive and detailed inspection, but rather a quick overview of the conditions that affect the quality of air within the school. It is valuable for the entire IAQ Team to participate in the walkthrough. At a minimum, have someone who is familiar with the operation of the building, such as a facility operator or custodian, accompany you during the inspection. During your walkthrough, you can learn a lot about a school’s IAQ status by using your senses:

Note for Districts

A district IAQ Team member should lead a walkthrough in each school building with the School’s

  • IAQ contact or Team
  • Principal
  • Maintenance staff
  • A health official
  • or others directly involved in IAQ efforts

Districts may choose to have the same individuals or groups conduct the walkthroughs in all of their schools. Forward the findings to the district IAQ Team for review.

  • Observe the general level of cleanliness in classrooms and mechanical rooms. Look for pollutant sources such as:
    • Mold
    • Improperly stored chemicals
    • Dirty air filters or ducts
    • and blocked airflow pathways (e.g., books or papers on top of unit ventilators or plywood covering outdoor air intakes)
    Determine whether vehicles idle for long periods and whether the idling is in close proximity to the building’s air intakes or to students and staff.
  • Smell for unique or objectionable odors as you move from room to room.
  • Feel for:
    • Uncomfortable air temperatures
    • Drafts
    • High or low humidity
    • and air flowing into and out of grilles and air vents
  • Listen to the concerns of school occupants regarding IAQ. Do they provide clues to problems (such as using their own pest spray to control pests, or turning off the unit ventilator because it is too noisy during class-time)? Do you hear unusual equipment noises that may indicate potential problems? Do you hear air blowing out of supply vents?

Extend your walkthrough inspection to all special-use areas including:

  • The cafeteria
  • Art rooms
  • Industrial arts areas
  • Science laboratories
  • and maintenance equipment storage areas

Where possible, resolve IAQ issues as you go, particularly low-cost and no-cost changes.


If minor problems are allowed to develop into a serious IAQ problem, a variety of deficiencies may be identified, but the one that caused the problem often cannot be easily determined. As a result, schools can be confronted with an expensive list of potential explanations of their problem. The crisis atmosphere surrounding a serious IAQ problem creates pressure to remedy every deficiency immediately instead of establishing a prioritized approach to IAQ improvement. By contrast, many of the preventive measures recommended in this guidance can be accomplished with in-house effort, following a schedule that is consistent with your resources.

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9. Identify, Prioritize and Resolve Problems

Note for Districts

Prioritize IAQ improvements and repairs within your school district. School-wide problems that impact health or safety should be corrected first. Create a district IAQ budget and investigate additional financing options for larger projects.

In all likelihood, the checklists and your walkthrough inspection will reveal some IAQ problems. The Problem Solving Wheel, provided in the Action Kit, can help schools identify potential sources of IAQ problems based on health symptoms. Sections 5 and 6 in the IAQ Reference Guide also provide assistance with diagnosing and solving IAQ problems. In addition, Section 6 provides basic criteria for determining the practicality of proposed solutions.

Once identified, prioritize projects for each school into short-term and long-term categories, considering health-related and financial issues. Implement solutions that impact health or safety first. Then focus on problems that can be resolved by low-cost and/or in-house measures. Many IAQ hazards may be remediated by simply educating school staff and changing the current habits of school occupants (e.g., explaining to teachers that placing books on unit-ventilators or posters on air-return grilles prevents fresh air from circulating).

Make a “to-do” list and include any unresolved problems from previous checklists. This list can be incorporated into the school’s plan for implementing long-term IAQ improvements. Because of the potential complexities involved in setting priorities for repairs and upgrades and for committing school resources, an agreement from top school management and appropriate committees will probably be necessary. As repairs and upgrades are completed, ensure that you are still meeting your priorities.

Investigating Financing Options. Sometimes repairs that require funding may be necessary. Various finance vehicles are available for funding the longer term, more expensive IAQ improvements (e.g., roofs, HVAC improvements). Many options are available to schools and states e.g.,

  • Low interest loans
  • Bonds
  • Grants
  • Performance contracts

Initiate a meeting with the Chief Financial Officer and business officials for the district. These individuals are essential to understanding the funding options available for schools. EPA offers finance training for school personnel and finance officers.

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10. Establish IAQ Policies and Management Plan

Note for Districts

Implement a district-wide IAQ Management Plan, IAQ policies and emergency response plans. Ensure that all schools in the district are aware and familiar with the policies and plans.

Once problems have been identified and resolved, it is important to develop IAQ policies and a comprehensive, proactive management plan. The plan will help to prevent IAQ problems and prepare the school to deal with any new IAQ issues that arise.

IAQ Management Plan. Develop an ongoing, active IAQ Management Plan supported by district-wide decision makers. The IAQ Management Plan should prioritize activities and identify areas needing special funding or attention. Emergency response and IAQ school policies, discussed below, should also be incorporated into the Plan. See Section 3 of this Guide for a model IAQ Management Plan and use the checklist provided in Appendix A to guide and log the development of the Plan. See Appendix A.

IAQ Policies. Based on the problems uncovered as a result of the checklists and walkthrough, schools may want to develop various school policies regarding:

  • Integrated pest management.
  • Animals in the classroom.
  • Food in the classroom.
  • Location of idling motor vehicles (for example, buses and delivery trucks).
  • Painting (for example, use low volatile organic compound paints and paint only when the building is unoccupied).
  • Carpet (installation and/or cleaning).
  • Cleaning procedures and products.

Proactive IAQ policies can prevent IAQ problems from developing and recurring. Ensure that all existing IAQ policies are being properly followed and are updated as necessary. Appendix B: “Developing Indoor Air Policies” provides more detailed information on establishing IAQ policies.

Emergency Response Plan. Acute IAQ problems — such as a chemical spill, unintentional shutdown of ventilation systems, or a flooded carpet — require an immediate response. Preparing for such events in advance will help ensure timely and cost-effective actions. Preparations may include developing a cooperative agreement or contract with a health and safety agency or private contractor to assist with acute IAQ problems that are beyond the capabilities of your IAQ Team. Proper preparation can also mean having the appropriate equipment on hand. For example, stocking the equipment needed to immediately clean and dry wet carpets or having a pre-established agreement with a professional cleaning firm that can provide immediate service on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week basis. See Appendix A: “Hiring Professional Assistance” in the IAQ Reference Guide.

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11. Assess Results and Communicate Success

Note for Districts

The IAQ Coordinator should have an opportunity to address and explain all improvements in each school through memos, meetings, or on the school website. District-wide refresher classes on IAQ Tools for Schools implementation are a great way to keep participants informed about the progress of the program and can help address any concerns of school faculty and staff.

Follow-up. One of the final steps in implementing an IAQ Tools for Schools Program includes conducting follow-up inspections. Determine whether the repairs and upgrades were performed according to plan or specifications, whether the intended results were obtained and whether areas are being properly maintained. Refer to Section 6: “Solving IAQ Problems” in the IAQ Reference Guide for help evaluating your solutions. Schools should also ensure that newly implemented policies, if any, are being followed.

To assess recent problem-solving performance, determine if changes need to be made in your ability to:

  • Respond to IAQ complaints and incidents quickly.
  • Resolve IAQ problems.
  • Communicate in a way that prevents or reduces the concerns of school occupants and others during an IAQ problem or crisis.

For information on resolving IAQ complaints, incidents and how to communicate when IAQ problems occur, use the guidance in Sections 3-6 of the IAQ Reference Guide.

Develop a Schedule of IAQ Events. Develop and maintain a schedule of events that may affect IAQ:

  • Establish a specific date for the next round of implementing the IAQ Coordinator’s Checklist, based on the previously determined interval.
  • Check weekly for mold growth if your school is in a humid climate and will be unoccupied over the summer. Take preventive measures (such as cycling the cooling system to keep relative humidity below 60 percent) as needed.
  • Mark your schedule in advance for renovations or new construction to allow enough lead time for you to provide information packets or other materials to the people performing the work and to the occupants of the affected areas.
  • Provide appropriate checklists to new school staff so that they can become part of the IAQ program.
  • Conduct ongoing classes about IAQ or incorporate IAQ trainings into general staff meetings. Make sure that staff understand how behavior can influence IAQ in a school building. Address any overall IAQ Tools for Schools implementation concerns that school staff and faculty may have.

File Checklists, Reports and Notes. For future reference and for accountability purposes, all completed paperwork should be filed in a readily accessible manner in a centralized location. Files should include:

  • Completed checklists.
    • IAQ Management Plan Checklist.
    • IAQ Coordinator’s Checklist.
    • Checklists from IAQ Team members who received an information packet.
    • Checklist Log.
    • IAQ Problem-Solving Checklist.
  • Copies of memos, status reports and final reports.
  • Copies of communications with school or district administration.
  • A copy of the school’s floor plan.
  • Personal notes, contracts, or other paperwork as appropriate.
  • Up-to-date contact information.

Communicate Success. It is important to keep school occupants and constituents informed about the repairs and the general status of IAQ in your school. Periodic reports containing updates on the status of the school’s IAQ issues and a copy of the IAQ Management Plan should be sent to school staff, local unions and administrators. Additional guidance on what to include in the report, as well as principles for effective communication, are presented in Section 3: “Effective Communication” of the IAQ Reference Guide and in EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Communications Guide [EPA 402-K-02-008].

When reporting to the school or district administration, it may be desirable to provide indicators of how successful the IAQ program has been to date. Indicators may include:

  • All IAQ checklists completed and returned.
  • All IAQ problems identified by the checklists corrected.
  • Decreased absenteeism.
  • Fewer IAQ complaints, visits to the nurse’s office and use of medications.
  • Establishment of good relations with the local media.
  • School memo and IAQ Backgrounder mailed to all parents.

Schools and districts that have shown substantial progress implementing the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit are eligible for the Leadership Award. Award recipients receive a plaque and a press kit and are recognized on EPA’s Website.

When a district IAQ Team has made significant progress on IAQ Tools for Schools and has demonstrated leadership in handling IAQ issues, it is eligible to apply for the Excellence Award. Excellence Award recipients are:

  • Recognized during an awards ceremony in Washington, DC
  • Recognized in a national press release
  • Are featured on EPA’s Website
  • and receive a press kit

Serve as a Mentor. Share your experience and IAQ knowledge by mentoring other schools and districts.

It is important that everyone affected

  • Students
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Staff
  • Unions
  • and administration

receive a report summarizing the status of IAQ issues.

For more information, see Indoor Air Quality.

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Any information gathered using this Action Kit is for the benefit and use of schools and school districts. EPA does not require retention or submission of any information gathered, and EPA has no regulatory or enforcement authority regarding general indoor air quality in schools. This Action Kit has been reviewed in accordance with EPA's policies. Information provides the current scientific and technical understanding of the issues presented. Following the advice given will not necessarily provide complete protection in all situations or against all hazards that may be caused by indoor air pollution.

Mention of any trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.


Please note the following as you prepare to use this Action Kit:

  • This Action Kit is not intended as a substitute for appropriate emergency action in a hazardous situation that may be immediately threatening to life or safety.
  • Modification of building functions, equipment, or structure to remedy air quality complaints may create other indoor air quality problems and may impact life-safety systems and energy use. A thorough understanding of all the factors that interact to create indoor air quality problems can help avoid this undesirable outcome. Consult with professionals as necessary.
  • In the event that medical records are used while evaluating an IAQ problem, maintain confidentiality.


This Action Kit contains public information that may be produced or modified in whole or in part without permission. If the Action Kit or its contents are reproduced or modified, EPA would appreciate knowing how it is used. Please write to: IAQ Tools for Schools Program, Indoor Environments Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Mail Code 6609J, Washington, DC 20460

For more information, see Indoor Air Quality.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Indoor Environments Division, 6609J
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 343-9370

American Federation of Teachers Exit
555 New Jersey Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 879-4400

Association of School Business Officials Exit
11401 North Shore Drive
Reston, VA 22090
(703) 478-0405

National Education Association Exit
1201 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-3290
(202) 833-4000

National Parent Teachers Association Exit
330 North Wabash Avenue, Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60611-3690
(312) 670-6782

American Lung Association Exit
1740 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
(212) 315-8700

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