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Contributed by The Ashkin Group

Earlier this year, the 21st Century School Fund released the 2021 State of Our Schools. One of their key findings was that in 2016, there was a $46 billion gap in the level of funding for the maintenance and periodic capital improvements needed for public schools.

According to the report, “unfortunately, five years later, this gap has increased to a staggering $85 billion.”

One of the critical concerns is that the most common out-of-date feature in American public schools is the HVAC systems. Forty-one percent of the school districts reported needing an upgrade.

“Studies show that the physical environment in which kids learn affects everything from student behavior and truancy rates to academic achievement,” says the report. “Heating and cooling systems, [indoor] air quality and filtration… all make a dramatic difference to student health and performance.”

The pandemic has further elevated indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns, according to Steve Ashkin, one of the professional cleaning industry’s key advocates for Green Cleaning and healthy schools.

“It has also made creating healthy school environments an urgent national priority. This report and the pandemic have brought to light the serious IAQ challenges we face in school facilities nationwide.”

While the challenges are considerable, Ashkin does offer three suggestions for school administrators – steps they can take right now at little or no added cost to help improve and protect the IAQ in their facilities. 

These are the following:

Transfer to Green Cleaning. Green cleaning products and strategies help protect indoor air quality. “View green cleaning as a system; it involves using third-party, Green-certified products and a trained workforce, skilled in effective Green Cleaning practices.”

Ask for Support. Organizations such as EPA’s Tools for Schools Program, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, and the Center for Green Schools, offer proven guidance and support, helping schools create effective Green Cleaning and related programs to protect IAQ. “I always urge [school] administrators to ask for guidance when it comes to IAQ. The health concerns are too significant to go it alone and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Get Involved. Work with the three organizations just mentioned and attend local school board meetings to advocate for greater investment in healthier facilities. “We have to stay focused on the root cause of the problem and that is a lack of funding for cleaning and facility maintenance. Adequate funding is essential if we want to truly improve our schools.”