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Healthy School Environments Symposium -Attendees hear from experts

Student test scores are not a topic only for teachers and curriculum leaders. Facility managers can have a major impact on achievement by improving school environments, which then contribute to higher attendance for students and teachers. Research shows higher attendance results in higher achievement.


Facility managers from across the state joined vendors and sponsors to learn more at the 2014 Texas Healthy School Environments Symposium held in April at Harris County Department of Education.


John E. Sawyer, Ed.D., HCDE county school superintendent, welcomed the crowd to HCDE, recognizing the importance of the symposium topic and acknowledging the research that has demonstrated that “learning environment is really important...The upkeep and health of the facilities really do contribute to student achievement,” said Sawyer.


Superintendent Alton Frailey, Katy ISD (left), with 8,500 teachers and staff and 67,000 students, noted that today school air quality is “serious business.”


 “I grew up in east Texas on a farm. My idea of air quality was to just stand upwind,” said Frailey. “Green was just a color, not a building condition...Today we know that it is not only physical space but also the socioemotional aspect,” Frailey said.


 There is a return on investment in cleaner classrooms, according to Richard Shaughnessy, Ph.D., director, indoor air quality and research associate, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Tulsa.


“There is hard science to back all that up,” said Shaughnessy. “We know adequate ventilation is linked to performance. Contaminated schools may even lower kids’ IQs.”


The lead organizer was Greg Lookabaugh, senior manager of facilities planning, HCDE Choice Partners, assisted by Peggy Caruso, Katy ISD assistant director environmental and safety, and Stacy Murphy, regional contact, Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6 Schools Program.


Murphy brought Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools kits and stressed the importance of understanding the elements of maintaining a healthy environment. 


“We have a powerful national network,” said Murphy, noting the connections to spur action with mentor districts and school champions. 


“We provide resources so our districts can do their job of serving kids,” said Sawyer. “We’re going to do our very best for all the people we serve.”


See pictures in the Leader’s Choice.


See the video.