Healthy Schools Initiative

Creating healthy school communities

The economic crisis has impacted schools and the people who occupy them: school staff and children are working and learning in schools with fewer custodians, and deferred maintenance and capital repair budgets are years behind actual needs. This crisis contributes to an increase in asthma and other health conditions, which disproportionately harms low income and  urban communities.  Furthermore, we lack adequate resources and enforcement to abate and monitor toxic hazards such as asbestos, PCB’s or from environmental hazards in schools built on landfills or near industrial pollutants. In the a national report Toward Healthy Schools 2015 –  it states that all public and private school children should be considered at elevated risk of health and learning difficulties due to the unexamined and or unaddressed environmental health risks in their schools.

Through advocacy, education, and technical assistance, MassCOSH’s Healthy Schools Initiative (HSI) engages parents, students, school staff, unions, and environmental health allies to assess building conditions and take environmental health action at individual schools and districts. Through state and national coalitions, MassCOSH and its’ partners advocate for resources, policies, and standards to support green and healthy conditions for all schools.

Organizing Locally

School-based or District-wide: HSI brings together parents, staff unions and administrators in School Environmental Health Committees which assess and prioritize environmental health and safety conditions, using the EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit as a model.

Example: "Environmental/Wellness Teams" are formed in Boston schools. HSI   promotes healthy school champion models and green and healthy school policy development through the Boston Schools’ District-wide Healthy Schools Taskforce (LINK to Taskforce factsheet coming soon) and the District Wellness Advisory Committee (LINK TO POLICY COMING SOON)

Campaigns and Coalitions: HSI links school-based teams throughout a school district with local campaigns and coalitions to promote environmental safety and health policies and strategies for healthier schools.

Example: In partnership with Boston Healthy Homes & Schools Collaboratives (BHHSC), a community-based initiative which works with public health allies, and families of children impacted by asthma, HSI monitors Boston Schools’ mandated annual environmental audits and advocates for policies such as green cleaning policy and the revision of the BPS Wellness Policy to include healthy school environments. BHHSC also monitors the  school budget to advocate for resources needed to repair and maintain school facilities to further improve environmental health.

Mobilizing State-wide

HSI coordinates a statewide network of school staff and public health allies & leaders together to advocate for school environmental health and safety policies, regulations and technical assistance to change the way schools are designed, built and maintained in Massachusetts.

Example:
Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA): HSI has partnered with the MTA Environmental Health and Safety Committee to educate and assist its members in addressing environmental safety and health problems and to support Statewide policy such as legislation for Safer Cleaning Products (see factsheet below) and Workplace Bullying.
      
MAAP – (Massachusetts Asthma Advocacy Partnership): Building on the Boston Healthy Schools Champion model, a Statewide Asthma plan was developed for Massachusetts. MassCOSH, chair of the MAAP Healthy Schools Committee, provides support and a network among other urban asthma coalitions to share strategies for reducing asthma triggers and improving school environmental conditions in K-12 and early education and childcare.
 

Organizing Nationally

HSI links Massachusetts healthy schools advocates with national campaigns for healthy schools and efforts to increase federal resources and guidance to States that actions to ensure all schools are environmentally safe and healthy.

Example:
Coalition for Healthier Schools – engages in advocacy on national legislation to promote actions for environmentally healthy schools for all children and school staff.  The coalition has national communications network of actions throughout the year and a kit of  supporting tools and resources to customize your own actions and advocacy.

Childproofing our Communities Campaign with the Center for Health and Environmental Justice-   helps communities create safer and healthier environments for children through innovative trainings, programs and personal assistance. CHEJ coordinates a national campaign working to phase out PVC, the most dangerous plastic to our health and environment and  safe school siting of schools.

American Federation of Teachers: The AFT launched its national campaign: Building Minds, Minding Buildings initiative in 2006 with a  Road Map to Green and Sustainable Schools  with information and tools  to assist teachers, coalitions and  their State based affiliates in efforts to promote green school construction and maintenance.