After a year puntuated with protest chants of “I can’t breath!,” another important social and equity
issue is being noticed: the poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) affecting millions of students in our schools.
For decades, schools–especially schools in low income districts–have been failing to provide students
with air quality which we expect in businesses, offices and government buildings.
Too many of our children are stuck in old schools with either no air conditioning or antiquated systems
(think rusty window units) which fail to provide the ventilation, purification, and temperature control
required to create healthy and productive classroom environments. The air, ain’t fair.
This lack of air quality in poor schools is particularly egregious since students in low income areas
are far more likely to have childhood asthma which can be aggravated by poor air quality at their school.
Baltimore children are twice as likely to have childhood asthma than children throughout the state,
Why does that matter? Asthma is the leading health cause of missed school days in Baltimore.
Right now, we can create real and lasting improvements in the health and learning of our children by
investing infrastructure and educational funding to improve the air quality at our schools.
At the federal level, we should demand federal infrastructure funding to achieve ASHRAE standards for
IAQ in every school. We should advocate for funding of the EPA, and specifically for increased funding
for the Tools For Schools program which promotes improved air quality for our schools through
education and partnerships with schools.
At the state level, we need to continue to pressure Governor Hogan to provide funding for schools
so every school meets ASHRAE standards for Indoor Air Quality. Gov. Hogan has expressed
frustration with some school districts for not installing new HVAC systems at their schools, but he has
also balked at providing full school funding. . Healthy air and comfortable classrooms
improve student performance. This should be a priority and provided by the state in accordance with our
state constitutional requirement to educate our children. Want better test scores? Improve IAQ.
School districts should use their funds wisely and expediently to improve IAQ at their schools.
They should invest in proven technologies including HVAC systems, filtration systems and
stand alone air purifiers, not chemical or plasma systems which pose dangers to students.
They should monitor and post IAQ data for their schools and use the Tools for Schools program to
reduce harmful chemicals, pests and asthma triggers from their schools. Importantly, they should
hold more classes, lunches and recesses outside, where the air quality is often far better than indoors.
Shan Gordon, Well AP
Shan has engaged students in Baltimore in studying and improving the environmental conditions at their schools. He is always impressed with the students and depressed by the conditions at their schools.