Legislative Report 10 -- 2007 Report to the General Assembly
State of Vermont
Report to the 2007 General Assembly
Legislative Report 10
Title: Indoor Air Quality in Schools
Indoor Air Quality in Schools
The Commissioners of Health, Education, and Buildings and General Services present this report to the House and Senate committees on education. It documents the progress with the goals set forth in Act 125, an act relating to toxic materials and indoor air quality in Vermont public schools. The two focus areas are:
- Vermont schools establishment of environmental health programs.
- School eligibility for the Certificate of Achievement for Environmental Health in Schools.
The report also includes the following:
- A discussion of the development and accomplishments of the Vermont Envision Partnership (VEP).
The 2005 achievements for schools included the following:
- Five schools received a Certificate of Achievement for Environmental Health in Schools at a Governor’s Award Ceremony in May 2005.
- Ten schools recertified (demonstrated progress beyond adoption of the plan and policy) at a Governor’s Award Ceremony in May 2005.
- One school was recognized for their outstanding effort to mentor other schools by receiving the Outstanding Environmental Team Award- Bellows Free Academy, Fairfax.
- 16 schools and 3 Supervisory Union/School Districts received grant funding between $3000-$6000 to help defray costs associated with development and implementation of the environmental management plan program. To be eligible for funding, schools have to participate in an Envision/Tools for Schools workshop.
- As part of the 19 total grants, mentor grants were given to Burlington School District, BFA-Fairfax, Lowell, and Lunenburg. These schools received Envision grant funds to work as mentors to other schools to promote environmental management planning and policies.
- 19 schools received cleaning product audits through the Vermont Envision Partnership. This task was led by the Association of Vermont Recyclers and Inform, Inc.
- The number of schools participating in school-based environmental initiatives increased to 121/331 from 114/331 the year before.
- The Vermont Envision Partnership provided the keynote presentation on Environmentally Preferable Cleaning Products at the annual School Custodian’s and Maintenance Association Conference in June 2005.
I. Vermont Schools Establishment of Environmental Health Programs
Approximately 36% (121/331) of schools have initiated varying levels of interest in an environmental health program. VDH was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Healthy Communities Program to implement a grant program to assist schools with developing a district wide environmental health program. EPA has remained a strong partner of the Envision project and annually travels to Montpelier to participate in the Governor’s award ceremony.
The Department of Health also receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for asthma activities and personnel costs for the Envision program coordinator position. This funding source allowed for the addition of multiple school grants to work toward Envision Certification.
VDH was also able to fund partners to assist with training and to help schools with reducing hazardous materials at their schools. The American Lung Association of Vermont continued to co-train schools throughout the state and follow up with meetings with school environmental health teams to work on prioritizing areas of environmental health concern. In 2005, the Inform, Inc (Cleaning for Health) and Association of Vermont Recyclers worked together to change purchasing policies in schools toward using more environmentally preferred products. This year, they completed 19 cleaning product audits and also provided a written report to the Environmental Health committee, at these schools. If the school did not have an Environmental Health committee, they were encouraged to form one as part of the “action plan” from this report. By the end of 2005, the Department of Health successfully enhanced funding for services and grants to schools for implementation of Act 125 standards.
The following school districts applied for grants in the 04-05 school year to establish their environmental health programs:
1. Montpelier High School
2. Manchester Elementary/Middle School
3. Hinesburg Community School
4. Robinson Elementary School
5. Orleans Central Supervisory Union- Albany Community School
Barton Graded School
Brownington Central School
Clover Community School
Irasburg Village School
Lake Region Union High School
Orleans Elementary School
6. Troy School
7. Berkshire Elementary School
8. Montgomery Elementary School
9. Braintree Elementary School
10. Brewster Piece Memorial School
11. Windham Southeast Supervisory Union
12. Charleston Elementary
13. Coventry School
14. Dorset School
15. Eden Central School
Although some schools applied for school grants in 2004, work took place in 2005; allowing for eligibility to receive a certificate at the 2006 Governor’s ceremony. Prior to applying for the grants, these schools had identified a coordinator, recruited a school committee, and planned to draft an environmental management plan. It is anticipated that seven of the nine grantees will receive a Certificate at the Governor’s ceremony in 2006. Resources used by the schools’ environmental program included the Envision binder, EPA’s Tools for Schools Action Kit, and the VDH technical support hotline. This utilization demonstrates the effectiveness of the technical outreach required by the Envision legislation.
The VDH has initiated a mentoring program in order to better leverage existing resources and utilize the new expertise and enthusiasm of the recently certified schools. The new grant program helps engage, promote, and educate other schools about the environmental health program. The one-on-one meetings between the BFA-Fairfax coordinator and the Brewster Pierce Memorial School principal and maintenance staff regarding ventilation, roof, and other issues are one example of the types of project activities funded through the Envision Mentor Grant Program.
The following schools applied and received grants to mentor other schools:
- Burlington School District
- Lowell School
- Lunenburg School
During the months of April and May 2005, indoor air quality walkthroughs were conducted at each elementary and middle school in Burlington. During each walkthrough the entire school building was inspected and areas of concern were documented. The rooms were evaluated based on the following: dust, clutter, non-school furniture, odors, heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC), dampness/leaks, flooring, cleaning needed, cleaning products, and safety concerns. A concern in all the schools was the HVAC system, with results indicating blocked ventilation, fluctuating temperatures, and odors. Another major concern for these schools was the need for additional custodial help- many schools were dusty and cluttered. One challenge addressed was the time needed to conduct the walkthroughs.
Training is another key component to developing an environmental health program. The Department of Health along with its Envision partners, the American Lung Association of Vermont, Association of Vermont Recyclers and Inform, Inc. participated in supervisory union-wide trainings in January and August 2005. The half day trainings for the Supervisory Unions focused on providing tools, resources and education on how to raise awareness about environmental health. Participants were given the opportunity to put into action the skills they had learning by participating in a school walkthrough.
II. School Eligibility for the Certificate of Achievement for Environmental Health in Schools
In May the advisory panel members, as well as a representative from EPA Region 1, attended the Governor’s Award Ceremony honoring 5 schools for earning their environmental health certificates and 10 schools for recertifying or continuing efforts beyond adoption of the plan and policy.
The schools that received first year certificates for 2005 are:
- North Country Union High School, Newport
- North Country Union Junior High School, Newport
- Waitsfield School, Waitsfield
- Moretown School, Moretown
- Danville School, Danville
The schools that recertified and received certificates for 2005 are:
Discussion of challenges and new approaches to the Envision program during 2005
Vacancy of Envision Program Coordinator: The program coordinator position was vacant for five months, from April 2005-August 2005. This resulted in, among other things, a loss of the specific tracking of indoor air quality problems identified in schools during this report period.
Change in approach: The new coordinator hired in August 2005 utilized a broader scale approach to the Envision program for the duration of his oversight. The focus moved away from specific, detailed work in schools, to a broad, statewide approach. This systemic approach sought to achieve components of the Certificate of Achievement award as a whole, rather than school by school. Therefore, the program looked to partner with other agencies in developing potential legislation; for example, the adoption of a statewide anti-idling policy in schools or working with the Department of Education to adopt the use of green cleaners throughout the state. This policy was discussed at several partnership meetings with the idea of enhancing the implementation of environmental health school policies, while potentially moving to a larger number of schools to certification in the future. Although this approach could be a very cost effective means of reaching Act 125 certification goals, it could also lead to less schools being certified on an annual basis in the 2006 and 2007 calendar years.
Act 125 Advisory Panel Meeting
The Act 125 Advisory Panel met January 10, 2005. Advisory panel members were given the opportunity to meet a school grantee and discuss his experiences as part of the Envision program. Lyall Smith, school physical plant manager, described ways in which the Envision grant received by BFA Fairfax enabled the school to make significant improvements. He observed that seemingly small changes in habits of behavior had made meaningful differences. Lyall described how the small Envision grant had enabled them to make large improvements. BFA hired a skilled consultant, who helped them to create an unprecedented equipment inventory and establish priorities. A cleaning and inspection schedule for air handling and heating systems is now in place, borrowed CO2 monitors are in use and teachers are more aware of indoor air issues. He felt that environmental issues have an increased visibility with the school board as a result of the involvement with Envision. Overall, the school feels that problems are not ignored, as they may have been previously.
Discussion of the Vermont Envision Partnership
The Vermont Envision Partnership (VEP), originally formed in August 2004, is a diverse coalition of organizations seeking to assist Vermont schools in creating good indoor air quality for optimal student performance. Together the coalition has operated as an active working group to compliment the advisory role of the Envision Advisory Panel. VEP’s mission, as distinct from the Act 125 Advisory Panel, is to assist the Vermont Department of Health implement the goals of the Envision program-Vermont’s Healthy Schools program under Vermont’s Act 125. During the initial phase (year 1), VEP’s first priority was to educate and assist schools in their move to environmentally preferable cleaning products. In response to the unanticipated vacancy of the Envision coordinator, VEP increased capacity and addressed the broader goals of Envision. This work has continued and includes subgroups which address technical assistance, marketing, funding and evaluation. The working group continues to grow, with initial partners including:
- Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
- Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services
- Vermont Department of Education
- Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust
- Association of Vermont Recyclers
- INFORM, Inc
- American Lung Association of Vermont
- High Performance Schools/10% Challenge
- NE Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition
- Shelburne Farms
- VSA-School Energy Management Program
- Efficiency Vermont
Highlighted accomplishments of VEP’s work, in 2005, included the following:
- Provided cleaning product audits along with detailed reports and recommendations to 19 schools
- Gave trainings and presentations to two supervisory unions as noted previously in report.
- Created the “Healthy Schools: A Purchaser’s and User’s Guide to Safe and Healthy Custodial Cleaning Chemicals”, a how-to manual for schools wanting to “go green”.
- Mailed these Guides to over 500 public and private Vermont schools.
- Gave the keynote presentation on Environmentally Preferable cleaners at annual School Custodian’s and Maintenance Association conference, June 2005.
- Hosted an outreach table promoting Green Cleaners and State Purchasing Contracts at annual School Custodian’s and Maintenance Association conference in June 2005.