A New, National Standard for Healthy School Facilities
June 01, 2021
Developed by and for facility professionals, the standard focuses on inexpensive measures that can make a big difference in promoting health, safety and sustainability.
By Sara Porter
School facility management professionals are vital stewards of school environments, making daily decisions that affect the health, safety and sustainability of places where students and staff spend more than 1,000 hours a year. Yet budget realities mean these professionals often lack proper funding and resources for the essential work they do.
That’s why Healthy Schools Campaign and Green Seal, through our combined Healthy Green Schools & Colleges (HGSC) program, are creating the first national standard for healthy and sustainable school facilities — with a focus on measures that can make a big difference without major capital investments.
The draft standard was designed in partnership with the award-winning school facility directors on HGSC’s steering committee and is open for public comment through July 17. Learn more at HGSC.
This science-based standard is geared toward K-12 school districts and higher education institutions and is designed to be accessible for schools across the experience spectrum, whether they are just starting to explore environmental health and sustainability improvements or are already a leader in the field.
The Tools to Transform School Environments
The HGSC standard is the centerpiece of a comprehensive program designed to support school facility management professionals.
A self-assessment tool will allow schools to objectively measure their current indoor environmental health and sustainability performance, while guidebooks, trainings and other tools will help them determine and take their next steps. Then, a points-based scoring system will encourage schools to keep improving at their own pace, with support from a network of facility management peers across the country who are on a similar journey.
Schools that reach the top level of achievement will be eligible to apply for third-party certification, earning public recognition for their verified expertise in providing healthy school environments.
Rare Opportunity to Focus on Facilities
The pandemic has made creating healthy school environments an urgent national priority and exposed the massive under-investment in school facilities nationwide. But the fact is, even before the pandemic, nearly half of U.S. schools reported indoor air quality problems that put the health of students and staff at risk.
Unhealthy indoor air, inadequate ventilation and chemical exposure from cleaning and maintenance routines continue to present systemic challenges in school districts. On top of health concerns, these issues are linked to poor concentration and test performance, adding preventable barriers to student achievement.
Schools have a rare opportunity right now to focus on their facilities. Two major pieces of legislation — the American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) — provided billions of dollars for schools, including funds that can be used for facility upgrades focused on health and sustainability.
The way that schools manage their facilities speaks to how they value their students, staff and surrounding communities. HSC and Green Seal are committed to providing schools with the resources and network to ensure a quality of school facility that every student in America deserves.