How can Schools Improve Indoor Air Quality to Reduce Absenteeism?
Bart Lane
Bart Lane
Vice President, Facilities Management Business Development Sodexo

Absenteeism results in lost learning opportunities for students and teachers. For students, a missed day can mean missing out on learning something new and falling behind. For teachers, a missed day means lost chances to educate or inspire many young minds. Illness due to colds, flu and respiratory conditions are common reasons students and teachers miss school. Respiratory sensitivities such as asthma, which is the number one childhood health disparity, account for a significant portion of absenteeism in students (10 million school days annually according to the American Lung Association).

Indoor air and its effect on respiratory conditions experienced by students and faculty is directly responsible for drastically improving learning opportunities or inhibiting those learning opportunities, depending on the quality of the air. Students and teachers spend 90% of their time indoors, typically in classrooms. Naturally, a polluted or unhealthy school environment can significantly impact their health, attendance, concentration and performance.

Health issues stemming from poor indoor air quality (IAQ) are strongly linked to aging school buildings in need of the latest environmental expertise and efficiency processes. Public school buildings on average are 55 years old, with over 25% of them requiring extensive repair or replacement and 50% reporting IAQ related issues. Poor indoor air quality in newer buildings occurs as well if the systems are not maintained, operated properly and monitored.

School administrators can perform these six key actions to address IAQ:

  • Use EPA tools and implement best practices for better IAQ management.
  • Educate staff, students and parents about how IAQ affects classrooms and what its role is in contributing to a healthy school environment.
  • Identify potential source points where indoor air quality could be compromised; examples include exhaust systems in restrooms, science labs, printing and duplicating rooms and industrial areas.
  • Check ventilation to make sure the proper quantity of fresh air is continually supplied to your school.
  • Set up a preventive maintenance plan to ensure air filters are changed regularly, properly and with the correct filter.
  • Partner with EPA-Trained Masters of Indoor Air Quality such as Sodexo’s Facilities Directors to implement IAQ best practices to meet the specific needs of your school buildings. Contact me or your local Sodexo team to discuss solutions for your districts.

Sodexo’s team of EPA-Trained Masters of IAQ represent 80% of all EPA-trained masters in the industry. We provide specialized expertise to maximize limited federal and state school funds for energy efficiency, healthy school environments, facilities support, asthma management and pollution solutions.

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