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Friendly Drive for Healthy Schools!

Original post made by A Lumsdaine, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2014

Since people on TS are probably more comfortable signing online than most people, I thought I'd post here. I'm still finding people are less willing to use the platform than to sign on paper. So far, there are about 250 signatures, but only about 80 online. I'd like to collect 1,000 just to make a good showing of support before reading to the board, but we'll see, it's kind of arbitrary. Part of the reason for the effort is to education the public, but also to just show the support from the community for this very beneficial and uncontroversial step, and get buy-in. (We have kept Max McGee in the loop - it's a completely friendly effort.)

Also, if you have any suggestions or thoughts on he best online signature platforms, please write here!

Here's the flyer language (obviously, formatting for clarity doesn't translate to TS). Please support Healthy Schools!

Ask for Good Air Quality for PAUSD Students

[email protected]
Web Link">Web Link

Do you care about student health in our schools? Reducing illnesses, allergy, and dangerous asthma attacks? Good environmental health and indoor air quality (IAQ) are important for student wellbeing! Good IAQ and environmental health practices reduce absenteeism and medical bills among students, staff, and teachers, and increase the life of facilities. Fortunately, there is something very simple you can do to make a big difference for our kids!

The EPA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Collaborative for High Performing Schools (CHPS), the California state PTAs, and the California Department of Education, all recommend that school districts adopt Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Plans to reduce illness and absenteeism, and to improve student health, wellbeing, and performance in school.*
Even if your child isn't among the growing and significant percentage of children with asthma and allergies, the EPA points to research showing that good indoor air quality helps all children in a school stay healthier, have fewer colds and flus, and perform better in school.

We have some of the best schools in the state here in Palo Alto. And we have excellent custodial staff, who do a very conscientious job caring for our facilities. Unfortunately, many districts make the mistake of confusing good housekeeping practices, which we definitely have, with good indoor air quality management, which we don't have.

Why hasn't PAUSD implemented an IAQ Management Plan for better student health? Did you know that there are no laws or regulations, CA or federal, protecting children from indoor air quality problems or even hazards in schools?
Please join us in asking PAUSD to adopt and implement a tried-and-true indoor air quality (IAQ) management plan for the optimal health and wellbeing of our students and staff!

The EPA has even developed a well-researched, free, flexible IAQ Management Plan, as a tool specifically for schools to provide the best environmental health and air quality for the resources districts have. Many of the steps PAUSD could take won't cost extra if our district follows an IAQ management plan during renovations or operations and maintenance, it's really a matter of awareness during the work. Many improvements the district has ALREADY MADE will backslide unless we adopt a plan.

Former Superintendent Skelly and others in the administration have expressed the belief that if PAUSD parents cared about improving environmental health and indoor air quality, the district office would hear about it.
Have you let PAUSD know you care about indoor air quality, even if your child has allergies? Now is your chance!

We have a new Superintendent — he's great! and we've already let him know about this positive effort — we need to show that Palo Alto parents care about good environmental health and air quality in our schools. Especially since improving air quality was promised with Measure A improvements. And especially when we can do so much for relatively little expense.

Fortunately, PAUSD can choose from tried-and-true plans to help districts set up an effective framework for indoor air quality management, including the EPA's Tools for Schools. IAQ management plans in school districts reduce illness and absenteeism, and improve student health, wellbeing, and improve student performance in school.

PAUSD needs to hear our voices together!

The California PTA has already adopted a statewide resolution supporting exactly this issue (2007)! Although PTA members are free to support anything they want for themselves regardless, because of the statewide resolution, local PTA chapters already know they can support it. A statewide resolution means the issue has gone through an intense process of study, covering all sides of an issue, has been written up and debated, and adopted in convention by vote of thousands of local PTAs (most likely including ours).

* An IAQ management plan is a voluntary guide to help schools implement best practices for keeping school spaces free of dangerous fumes, dust mites, toxics, mold growth, for example, really the basics we already expect from schools. A 2005 study of IAQ management plans in schools nationwide found that support by school administrations is important to get best results from such plans!

Every major environmental health organization for the EPA to the CDC to the California Department of Public Health, and every major educational organization, including the California Department of Education, recommends we do this.

Web Link">Web Link

For more information, updates, or if you are interested in volunteering to help improve our school environmental health, please email [email protected]

Comments (5)

Posted by A Lumsdaine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2014 at 5:49 am

"Part of the reason for the effort is to educate the public, but also to just show the support from the community for this very beneficial and uncontroversial step, and get buy-in."

Sorry. I had to make the typo on the word "educate", right?! LOL

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2014 at 8:42 am

Indoor air quality starts with outdoor air quality. Quit driving your kids to school and air quality around our schools will improve dramatically. The PTA needs to do more to encourage safe bicycle and walking routes to all of our schools and encourage kids to use these routes. Spare The Air!

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm

More leaf blowers.

Posted by A Lumsdaine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

It's a little difficult to know how to address a comment like the above, since the PTA already does a lot to encourage bicycling and walking, and even if tomorrow every child were biking or walking to school, we would still have the remaining 99.999% of the issues an IAQ management plan deals with and reasons we need one.

There is a wide array of sources of typical pollutants of school indoor air, including molds, dust mites, chemicals from building materials, even the carbon-dioxide from normal respiration in crowded rooms can be a problem if it builds up, etc — an IAQ management plan is a comprehensive guide to find the source of problems as well as maintain buildings in a preventive rather than reactive way.

A typical plan is pragmatic and if fumes getting in the building are a problem — including by district vehicles always present during the school day — they would tend to help identify pathways for fumes and change them, since that can be addressed permanently in a matter of hours or days as opposed to doing nothing in the face of a larger and more complex issue like school transportation.

An IAQ management plan is a comprehensive guide for setting up a framework for implementing best practices in schools so that we have the best indoor air quality possible as a matter of course. It actually provides tools so districts can find the most serious and pressing IAQ problems first (including usual problems coming in from outdoors), with best practices on how to address them.

Implementing a plan involves doing a walkthrough/assessment per the guidelines to identify areas that may need addressing or monitoring. How districts handle that walkthrough is flexible, and there are many tools to aid in making them effective. For example, see below about the peer-to-peer administrator program the American Association of School Administrators has available, so that the administrators of a district wishing to implement a plan can get help directly from administrators who have implemented one, and can help with practical advice on how to communicate with the public, etc.

A framework for communicating with families is also part of most plans, so that a preventive rather than reactive approach helps keep kids healthy rather than responding only after people get sick. The plans are flexible so that districts can make choices about how to optimize their resources for the benefit of healthy facilities.

1)  EPA's Tools for Schools is the standard.   Web Link

2)  CDC has an excellent step-by-step guide for "How Communities can Collaborate with Schools to Implement a Comprehensive Asthma Program" including IAQ management.
Web Link

3)  Collaborative for High Performing Schools (CHPS) has an operations and maintenance report card (they offered PAUSD free materials and waiving the upfront fees, a savings of about $900), based on the EPA's toolkit. Measure A promised CHPS standards for new school construction, and like-new renovated spaces, but as yet the district has not implemented their report card.

4)  American Association of School Administrators (AASA) has an excellent framework for effective indoor air quality management - they will pair our administrators with another district's administrators if we want help. One peer-to-peer success story reported a 50% reduction in asthma inhaler usage across an entire district.

The friendly signature drive above is simply a way to focus attention on this issue, and help our district adopt a plan. For just the time it takes to provide your signature, you will be helping those who are trying to help make schools safer for all kids, by just showing that healthy schools are important to the community.

Everyone I have spoken to in environmental health has basically said this: that district administrations need to really get on board with implementing plans in order to get the best benefits to the health of students. We let Max McGee know about what was going on from the start to be clear this was a friendly effort. In his statements, our new superintendent has spoken of measuring the effects of decisions; I think looking at asthma and other respiratory illness a little more closely in the district and seeing if we can improve, as the research on IAQ management plans shows is eminently doable, is a meaningful one.

Please sign your support! Web Link

(Or please your feedback on a better platform if the reason for hesitation is the platform - people just seem less willing to sign up online.)

Posted by A Lumsdaine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm

I am hearing feedback that people don't like because they then send a lot of emails. Does anyone have a suggestion for a signature/petition platform that is easy, doesn't spam people, and makes it easy to post on a subject? Does Survey Monkey work for something like this?

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