From Mari DeSchryver: Indoor Air Quality in Schools
Classrooms are a place where children spend a lot of their time, but classrooms aren’t always known for their cleanliness. Lots of studies have shown that schools have poor indoor air quality, and as a college student myself, I have to tell you I’m not surprised. I remember my high school definitely had some serious air quality issues apart from the air just feeling stuffy and uncomfortable. Even before the COVID pandemic hit, illnesses spread like wildfire because everyone was breathing the same stagnant, recycled air in close proximity to one another. Art and wood carving classes did not have proper air filtration, so we were breathing in all those harmful particles as well.
My personal experiences gave me the impression that schools aren’t focused on healthy and comfortable indoor air quality and wished it were more important to my school administrators. A study from Center for Green Schools makes a similar point. They said that implementing indoor air quality measures in schools is essential to not only continue to battle the current pandemic, but also to fight against future ones. The study also found that educating staff on the importance of air quality and having federal funds available is also a step in the right direction.
But just how important is classroom air quality? Katherine Pruitt, a national senior director of policy at the American Lung Association said the COVID pandemic has ““definitely generated a new wave of interest in the importance of ventilation in schools.” She goes on to state that the air children breathe at school is extremely important to their overall health, academic success, consistent attendance, test scores, and productivity. Other studies mentioned in the Forbes article “Why It’s Time To Raise Indoor Air Quality Standards In Classrooms” have said that poor indoor air quality, particularly for young children, can affect their cognitive development. The article also mentions that opening classroom windows seems like the obvious solution, but that it is often not possible for safety reasons, among other concerns. Personally, I remember that most of the windows in my old high school just didn’t open or could only be opened a crack.
While there are holdups for getting air quality measures taken in schools on a federal level, the article says that most local school decision-makers are very tuned in to the desires of the community. Therefore parents and school staff are some of the key players in making progress towards healthier classroom air.