Helping Schools in Our Communities Create Healthy Learning Environments

My organization, the National Education Association (NEA), has partnered with EPA for over a decade to help education professionals organize and implement comprehensive indoor air quality (IAQ) management programs.

Now, why would an organization representing teachers and education support professionals care about IAQ or the IAQ Tools for Schools Program? It’s simple: we know that IAQ is important to the health of our members – individuals central to the schools in which they work and the communities in which they live. Our members can spend upward of twenty years in one school, making IAQ a vital component of their long-term health and, according to the latest research, their job performance. In addition, our members see how IAQ directly affects students, who aren’t yet able to advocate for themselves. Our members speak for them, too.

NEA education professionals have an obvious stake in advocating for IAQ management, but I want to tell you why you should become educated about IAQ and advocate for IAQ management in your community’s schools. In addition to the role that many of us play as parents or mentors of a student, there are many other reasons each of us has a direct interest in the health of our schools.

Schools are the hearts of our communities; they represent the values we hold. Surely, environmental management and stewardship should start there. We all have a stake in how schools are being managed. We invest in them every day through taxes; we should be sure our investments are used wisely. Not to mention, schools are where our future leaders are being educated.

Through its Health Information Network, NEA offers many resources to learn about IAQ. In fact, in January, 2010, an online training for school environmental quality will become available for anyone to access. Of course, EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Program is the definitive resource for school IAQ management. Encourage school leaders to download the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit and attend EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Symposium. These resources will help school leaders develop their knowledge and put it into action to ensure schools continue to be healthy environments for teaching and learning.

Please join me, NEA, EPA and your neighbors in advocating for your community’s health. Take action to improve IAQ in your schools.

About the author: Jennie Young is the Senior Program Coordinator for the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEAHIN). Since joining NEAHIN, Jennie has become a staunch advocate of IAQ management and an indispensable partner of EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools Program.