WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released draft voluntary guidelines to help communities protect the health of students and staff from environmental threats when selecting new locations for schools.
More than 1,900 new schools serving approximately 1.2 million children and costing more than $13 billion opened in the 2008-2009 school year. Major investments in our children’s schools can be compromised if environmental hazards are not fully understood prior to selecting a school site. The voluntary guidelines also provide tools to help communities ensure that new locations for schools are accessible to the students they are intended to serve.
“EPA is offering tools to local officials and community residents looking to build schools that foster healthy, productive learning environments,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This guidance will help address the pressing environmental issues that parents, school boards and local residents often consider when making investments in their local schools. By offering guidance on long-term environmental and health concerns, it will also help local communities plan ahead and reduce the risk of costly changes down the road.”
The potential impacts on children’s health and education, as well as the damage to the community when school environmental hazards are later identified, are significant. In some cases, schools have been closed and in other cases have undergone costly remediation.
The new draft voluntary guidelines will give local communities tools to help them consider environmental health issues in establishing school site selection criteria and in conducting effective environmental reviews of potential school sites. The draft guidelines recommend involving the public in the site selection process from the beginning to help ensure community support for these decisions.
EPA developed the draft guidelines in consultation with other federal agencies, states, school districts, community organizations, health care professionals, teachers, as well as environmental justice leaders, and children’s health and environmental groups, among others.
The draft school siting guidelines are being made available for public comment for 90 days. Comments will be accepted until 4 pm EST on February 18, 2011.
To view and comment on the draft guidelines: http://epaschoolsiting.icfi.com/
More information on the draft school siting guidelines and on protecting children’s health in existing schools: http://epa.gov/schools/