Governor Presents Environmental Health Awards To Nine Exemplary Schools
For Immediate Release: May 20 , 2004
Contact: Jason Gibbs
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
MONTPELIER, VT - Governor Jim Douglas this week recognized nine Vermont schools for their groundbreaking work to protect their students and staff from indoor air pollution and environmental hazards.
“These schools have done successful work to decrease the exposure of their students and staff to chemicals and other toxins in the school environment,” Governor Douglas stated.
In a statehouse ceremony, Governor Douglas noted the unique accomplishments of the Lowell Graded School, the Lunenburg Elementary & Gilman Middle Schools, Fairfax’s Bellows Free Academy, and a group of six Burlington schools - H.O. Wheeler Elementary, Charles P. Smith Elementary, John J. Flynn Elementary, Edmunds Elementary, Champlain Elementary, and Lawrence Barnes Elementary.
“We look to these schools as models for others,” Douglas continued. “Their experiences are invaluable to all schools who wish to take action to minimize the exposure of students to environmental and air pollutants.”
Joining the Governor in the ceremony were Paul Jarris, Commissioner of Health; Bill Talbott, Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Education; Thomas Torti, Commissioner of Buildings and General Services; Winton Goodrich, Vermont School Board Association.
Absenteeism, health complaints, decreased productivity, and costly repairs are linked to poor air quality in schools. Studies have also shown that student achievement is related to the quality of the school environment.
“As part of the Health Department’s ENVISION program, each of these schools established polices and procedures to make the school a healthier environment to learn in,” said Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD, MBA. “The schools represented here today have made a commitment to the health of their students by addressing environmental issues and adopting measures that minimize student exposure to harmful pollutants.”
“Other schools and supervisory unions can follow the leaders here today by prioritizing simple and low cost steps to improve the air quality and choose to participate in the ENVISION program,” said Commissioner Thomas Torti, Buildings and General Services.
“This is also a story of successful collaboration between several state agencies, professional and community organizations and private partners,” said Department of Education’s Bill Talbott. “We want to thank the staff of these organizations for their contributions to the ENVISION program.”
Under Vermont’s School Environmental Act of 2000, the Certificate of Achievement Process recognizes schools that have done exemplary work to lower student, teacher, and staff risk of exposure to pollutants in the school environment.
Schools are encouraged to contact the Vermont Department of Health’s ENVISION program to get assistance in addressing environmental hazards and air quality. Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ENVISION program offers resources, workshops, and technical support to schools.
With ENVISION program assistance, schools that have an existing committee representing teachers, students, administration and parents can take the information and begin to identify their school’s priorities and begin to determine solutions.
Each school received recognition for specific activities:
- Lowell Graded School: New construction requires asbestos free materials and pesticides are no longer allowed to be used on school property.
- Fairfax Bellows Free Academy: Students were involved in the planning process. Timers were installed in the air handling system to keep car and truck diesel fumes outside the building.
- Lunenburg Elementary and Gilman Middle Schools: Improved cleaning by using special filters that help reduce dust and debris that can be problematic for children and staff with asthma and allergies.
- Six Burlington Elementary Schools: Instituted District-wide initiatives that included the use of the American Lung Association of Vermont’s asthma education program and a no diesel idling policy at each school.
Schools can register to participate in the ENVISION program by calling 1-800-439-8550.