Coalition for Healthier Schools, 2016.

Healthy schools help children grow and learn. But providing children with healthy places to learn is too often an afterthought—or not thought of at all. School facilities have been neglected for decades. Towards Healthy Schools: Reducing Risks to Children is the fourth in a series of triennial state of the states’ reports

from Healthy Schools Network and its partners in the Coalition for Healthier Schools, dating from 2006. Previous reports assessed state-by-state environmental health hazards at schools, offered compelling personal narratives from parents and teachers, and provided data needed to assess the subsequent impact on children’s health. The last report, Towards Healthy Schools 2015, went deeper into specific issues such as asthma, and fracking and well water, while also using federal poverty statistics—e.g., the number of children in a school eligible for free or reduced-price meals—as a proxy for poverty and to highlight essential inequities and injustices. It also highlighted how greener, cleaner, healthier schools promote attendance and achievement. Yet, no state publishes information regarding children at risk due to school and/or child care center environmental hazards. To drive home the national scope of the hidden environmental health crisis faced by children, this new report features published media reports on environmental conditions from every state in the nation. From Alabama, where Bay Minette parents threatened to keep their children home to avoid exposing them to asbestos, to Wyoming, where grass fires endangered students at South High, it is a disturbing summary, highlighting the fact that across the country teachers, parents, and guardians, and the children themselves, face numerous and serious unexamined and unaddressed risks to health and learning which are rarely acknowledged by public agencies.

Environmental Protection Agency (2015)

School locations and community development are inextricably linked. School locations affect community land use patterns and infrastructure needs. Local land use, the location and capacity of road and utility networks, and community investments in economic development, housing, and other social programs affect school surroundings and learning environments. Taken together, school siting and other community decisions influence housing and transportation choices, neighborhood vitality, economic development, costs of community services, environmental quality, and overall community health and well-being.

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National Center for Environmental Health

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected. The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

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Environmental Law Institute

According to the U.S. EPA, indoor radon exposure results in an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. That makes indoor radon the second leading cause of lung cancer, the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the seventh leading cause of cancer mortality overall.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced from the decay of radium released from uranium ore that is present in most rock and soils. When radon enters a building through cracks or other openings in the foundation or slab, it becomes concentrated indoors. Inhaling radon over a period of years increases cancer risk; the higher the radon levels, the greater the risk.

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FEMA developed the Best Available Refuge Area (BARA) Checklist for the first edition of FEMA P-361 to use in assessing a building’s susceptibility to damage from extreme-wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. The checklist evaluation process guides registered design professionals (architects and engineers) in identifying potential refuge areas at a site with one or more buildings. The term “best available refuge area” (or “BARA”) refers to an area in an existing building that has been deemed by a registered design professional as likely to protect building occupants during an extreme-wind event better than other areas in the building when a safe room is not available.

The BARA should be regarded as an interim measure only until a safe room can be available to building occupants. A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed and constructed to the guidelines specified in FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business and FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms.

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Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) (2015).

The criteria presented in this publication address how to design and construct a safe room that provides near-absolute protection for groups of individuals sent to a building or structure expecting it to be capable of providing them life-safety protection from wind, windborne debris, and flooding. This guidance interprets the new International Code Council® (ICC®) ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters [(ICC-500, produced in consensus with the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA)] design criteria and provides technical design guidance and emergency management considerations to individuals who are looking for “best-practices” that are above minimums in the codes and standards.

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), (2015).

Every year, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme windstorms cause numerous fatalities and injuries, and cost millions of dollars worth of property damage throughout the United States. Most businesses and public buildings, even new ones constructed according to current building codes, do not provide adequate protection for occupants seeking refuge from these events. A Community Safe Room can provide “near-absolute protection” for many community members, when it is constructed in accordance with FEMA criteria. A growing number of these Safe Rooms have already saved lives in actual events.

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21st Century School Fund, National Council on School Facilities & U.S. Green Building Council, 2016

School facilities have a direct impact on student learning, student and staff health, and school finances. But too many students attend school facilities that fall short of providing 21st century learning environments because essential maintenance and capital improvements are underfunded. In 2016’s State of Our Schools report, we compile and analyze the best available school district data about U.S. K–12 public school facilities funding. In fact, the report projects that going forward our nation will under-invest in school buildings by $46 billion annually.

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Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. 2010.

The OSPI staff, acting as a Work Group for Facilities Maintenance and Operations convened three expert groups to analyze the staffing needs of schools and districts. Expert groups included:

A team of architects who have designed Washington schools and understand their space requirements;

A team of facilities maintenance and grounds professionals with expertise in preventive maintenance of building systems (i.e. heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); electrical; and plumbing) and school grounds; and

A team of operations professionals with expertise in daily cleaning and routine facilities maintenance requirements.

In practice, facility maintenance crews include skilled craftsmen and women who conduct scheduled inspections and services, and who repair and replace building system components. Operations staff members include custodians, grounds workers, and general maintenance crews who respond to emergent and routine maintenance needs.

For the purposes of reporting the findings of this analysis in the context of Washington state’s prototypical school model, the Work Group summarized these roles into two slightly different categories; facilities maintenance and grounds, and custodians. In the prototypical school model, facilities maintenance and grounds staff provide districtwide support while custodians are building based staff.

The work of the Expert Groups informed the Facilities Maintenance and Operations Work Group, and provided the information needed to assess the adequacy of current funding for facilities maintenance and operations staff. The resulting staffing recommendations are based on carefully crafted assumptions about the space required to deliver state-funded education programs, and the staff needed to adequately maintain those spaces.

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The Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Guidance is a comprehensive document that details the specific criteria of the three HMA programs: the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program, and the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program. The guidance consolidates each program’s eligibility information and outlines the common elements and unique requirements among the grant programs so that Federal, state, tribal, and local officials can easily identify key similarities and differences between the programs. The following sections provide more details on the key changes included in the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) update of the HMA Guidance. These enhancements will promote resilience and speed up application review and project implementation.

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