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Healthy School Environments

Federal Resources to Assist States with Environmental Health Programs for Schools

EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have several important resources to assist states with implementing and sustaining an environmental health program for schools.

Two well-established resources are EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools Program, and CDC's Healthy Schools Strategy.  An additional resource is EPA's Model K-12 School Environmental Health Program.  These resources are summarized in the text and figures below.

EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools Program

The IAQ Tools for Schools Framework for Effective School IAQ Management has become the standard for schools that are looking to initiate proactive indoor air quality practices (see IAQ Tools for Schools At-a-Glance). In 2006, 51% of U.S. schools had an indoor air quality management program and among those schools, 85% based their program on EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools program. These schools are significantly more likely to be addressing key environmental health risks (e.g., mold and moisture, pests, and mismanaged chemicals) compared to schools without an indoor air quality management program. School districts already implementing IAQ Tools for Schools, and districts just beginning to think about developing a comprehensive environmental health program, will find the IAQ Tools for Schools platform an effective model on which to build.

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CDC's Healthy Schools Strategy

Ideally, a school's efforts to promote a healthy environment should be part of a coordinated strategy. A Coordinated School Health Strategy is an approach to improving the health and well-being of all students so they can fully participate and be successful in school. The process involves bringing together school administrators, teachers, other school staff, students, families, and community members to assess health needs; set priorities; and plan, implement, and evaluate all health-related activities (see "Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007").  A Coordinated School Health strategy integrates health promotion efforts across eight interrelated components that already exist to some extent in most schools, including:

  • Health education;
  • Physical education;
  • Health services;
  • Nutrition services;
  • Counseling, psychological, and social services;
  • Healthy and safe school environments;
  • Staff wellness; and
  • Family and community involvement.

States that have adopted a Coordinated School Health Strategy for use in their schools are encouraged to use these guidelines to help schools and school districts improve their environmental health programs. As one of the major components of a Coordinated School Health strategy, initial steps to promote healthy school environments (e.g., adopting tobacco-free policies or implementing policies to address environmental asthma triggers) are often the starting point for schools and school districts to implement a broader, coordinated approach to student and staff health. For more information, visit CDC's Healthy Schools.

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EPA's Model K-12 School Environmental Health Program

As an additional resource for states, EPA has developed a Model K-12 School Environmental Health Program which can be adapted by states to reflect state environmental health goals and resources. The model program focuses on five broad components of environmental health issues that schools should address to ensure that school environments are healthy and promote high achievement by children and school staff. These five components are:

In addition to these components, the EPA model program covers topics including new construction and renovation projects; enhancing classroom comfort (e.g., lighting, acoustics, ventilation, and temperature control); becoming more energy- and water-efficient; faculty and staff training; and student curricula. States are encouraged to customize the EPA model program to reflect their school environmental health policies, emergency management procedures, and local resources to help schools and school districts best address their school environmental health needs.

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Effective state environmental health programs for schools promote safe, clean, and well-maintained school buildings and grounds; create environments that are conducive to learning; and protect the health of children and school staff. The practices recommended in these voluntary guidelines have been successfully implemented by states, and can be applied, with appropriate adaptation, to a wide range of school-related institutions, including child care and early learning centers. EPA will work with federal,  state, and local partners to support implementation of these guidelines and share best practices to ensure healthy learning environments for the nation's children.