The State of our Schools
April 8, 2014 is National Healthy Schools Day. Coordinated by the Healthy Schools Network, National Healthy Schools Day is meant to raise awareness of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) issues affecting our schools’ faculty, staff, and students.
Each weekday, 55 million children and 2 million adults—roughly 20% of the entire U.S. population—spend their day inside a school. Yet, many of our school buildings still contain harmful environmental health hazards such as asbestos, lead paint, mold, heavy metals, pesticides, and other volatile organic chemicals. This need not be the case.
When you think back to your days spent in school what do you remember?
Was it a favorite teacher? The countless trips to the vending machine between classes? A visceral rush of excitement after your crush unexpectedly sat next to you in biology? I recently asked a colleague to recount her high school experience and received a surprising answer in return.
“My school was like a prison!”
Not because it was strict but because the architect who designed it also happened to design prisons.
Schools and prisons, go figure…
The school was dark with little natural light, had the ventilation of a prehistoric cave, the ceiling tiles were covered with stains and often had overlooked, unusual growths – the list went on. If a student compares school to prison, that comparison should reflect the student’s displeasure for getting out of a cozy bed rather than the design of the school itself.
NEEP’s Buildings Team is pleased to announce the release of the “Regional Operations & Maintenance Guide for High Performance Schools and Public Buildings in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: Strategies for creating green, healthy & energy efficient existing buildings in your state or local government.” Navigate to the report, on NEEP.org, by opening the cover below.
The guide is an updated version of NEEP’s Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) Operations and Maintenance Guide, which focuses on guidance for school buildings, to include strategies for all public buildings.
The Guide contains operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures that will help buildings reduce their operating costs, as well as lead to healthier indoor air, improved student and staff comfort, reduced water consumption, improved environmental stewardship, and overall improvements in the learning environment.
Carolyn Sarno, Senior Program Manager, High Performance Buildings
O&M procedures targeted at energy efficiency can save 5 to 20 percent on a building’s energy bills. These savings can total up to hundreds of thousands dollars annually, and many can be achieved at no to little cost.
Wellesley High School. Photo: SMMA
Roll up those sleeves and join the Green Schools Committee of USGBC MA for one (or three!) Green Apple Service projects over the next two weeks. Tour a newly built high performance MA-CHPS school or join us at Boston Latin Academy for some green rejuvenation! Help our communities support healthy, sustainable schools by participating in these free events. Continue reading
NEEP and CHPS staff outside the entrance to Lebanon Middle School
NEEP’s Regional High Performance Schools Working Group hit the road this July to gather at the newly constructed Lebanon Middle School in New Hampshire for their annual in-person meeting. Working group members got a sneak peak of the high performance school, which was designed to the Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NE-CHPS) protocol. The grand opening of the middle school is scheduled for August 25th. Continue reading
Imagine if your school saved thousands of dollars on utility costs by cutting down on energy, harvested vegetables from its “lasagna garden” for school lunch, or fueled its buses with discarded cooking oils from local restaurants. Schools across the US are doing this and more – and have been honored for the first time by the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School Awards program for their innovative “green” approach to education.
Secretary of Ed. Arne Duncan and students at Green Ribbon Schools Winners Announcement
On a morning visit to a DC school this Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the first ever winners of the Green Ribbon School Awards. Schools received Green Ribbons for implementing a strong, holistic approach to being “green” – these schools save energy, foster healthy school environments, and have strong environmental education programs. Nineteen of the 78 winning schools came from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
For champions of the green schools movement, the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools award program –now in its pilot year—is an exciting opportunity to gain national recognition for years of hard work transforming the way we design, build, and operate schools. Thirty three states, the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education have opted into the program and plan to nominate schools this January with a goal of announcing winners in April. The Mid Atlantic is strongly represented in this pack vying for an award; states such as Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York plan to participate.
In New England, however, Rhode Island is currently the only state to step forward as a contender. Continue reading
Student Recycling Station at the Manchester Essex School
Students and teachers hit the ground running in September, sometimes without noticing all of the improvements made to the school building over the summer months by facilities staff. This fall, many schools will have new lights, new boilers, new or cleaner ventilation systems, maybe even a more comprehensive recycling program in place. Not only should students and teachers be made aware of these improvements, but they can take an active role in sustaining healthy energy efficient schools. Getting students and teachers involved in the operations of the school helps save money in tough economic times, but it also teaches kids lifelong lessons about energy and climate science. Continue reading
Kinard Junior High School, Fort Collins, CO
When we walk into an office building or a school for the first time, it’s always nice to see the familiar blue ENERGY STAR plaque in the lobby. It represents a commitment to energy efficiency –the tracking and assessment of utility bills and the ongoing maintenance of energy-using systems. Buildings that achieve the EPA’s ENERGY STAR plaque are identified as top performers in their field –they have submitted detailed information proving that their building outperforms at least 75% of buildings in their class. Those that qualify for ENERGY STAR certification receive a score of 75 or above on a scale of 1-100. Those that fall below 75 have more work to do.