Gov. Blagojevich announces new environmental health website to keep kids safe in school
Healthy Schools for Healthy Learning site launched
SPRINGFIELD, Ill – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today the launch of the Healthy Schools for Healthy Learning website, http://app.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/healthyschools/. The website is an educational tool for parents, teachers and students to learn about indoor environmental quality, safe chemical storage, and other environmental health topics that affect Illinois schools.
“As a state we have worked very hard to take care of our children, especially their health. Every child now has access to health insurance through ALL KIDS. Parents work so hard to keep their children safe and healthy at home, but we must also make sure their schools are healthy,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The Healthy Schools for Healthy Learning website offers information about how to create a healthy environment in schools where children spend most of their day.”
The website is a convenient location where people can:
- print copies of checklists they can use to evaluate their school’s environment,
- browse school-related educational materials,
- test their knowledge with a school health quiz,
- see if their school has an indoor environmental quality report, and
- find contact information for regional offices that serve their community.
“Mold, asbestos, pesticides, lead paint or pipes and cleaning products in schools can impact children with asthma, sinus trouble or allergies and could increase the number of children suffering from infectious diseases, headaches or respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health Director. “The Healthy Schools for Healthy Learning website allows parents, teachers and students to gain knowledge about the environmental conditions in their school and identify potential problems so work can begin to correct them.”
“We need to provide the students of Illinois a school environment in which they can succeed. That means providing them an environment that is healthy. As we continue to strive to improve our students’ academic performance, we cannot afford to overlook one of the most basic components of the educational environment which would obviously include providing a healthy setting in which to learn,” said State School Superintendent Randy Dunn.
In order to ensure parents and teachers are aware of the new resource available to them, the participating agencies have coordinated several outreach initiatives. A letter from State School Superintendent Randy Dunn will be sent out alerting schools of the new website. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is including the website in its Tools For Schools newsletter and the Illinois Department of Public Health has notified several statewide groups such as the Healthy Schools Campaign in order to reach a broader audience.
The State of Illinois works diligently to make sure students are learning in a healthy school environment and are not exposed to environmental dangers.
- Asbestos Brochure: The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) provides a brochure summarizing a local education agency’s responsibility for asbestos inspections, re-inspections, abatement projects, non-friable floor tile removal, management plans and record keeping in schools.
- Pest Management: IDPH offers “A Practical Guide to Management of Common Pests in Schools” to help school districts comply with the Integrated Pest Management in Schools Act, which requires districts to adopt safer pest management practices.
- Healthy, High-Performing School Buildings: The Illinois Capital Development Board, the state's construction management agency, also offers the "Illinois Resource Guide for Healthy, High-Performing School Buildings," which is designed to introduce school districts to the latest ideas and strategies aimed at improving the health and efficiency of new and old schools. The guide covers such topics as energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly building systems and materials; comfort and health standards for classrooms; kitchen and cafeteria design; proper air quality and noise levels; "green" cleaning and maintenance; renewable energy sources; water recycling; and school bus use. The guide was developed in cooperation with the Illinois State Board of Education and the Healthy Schools Campaign.
- Illinois Clean School Buses: In October 2003, Gov. Blagojevich’s Illinois Clean School Program was launched to offer grants to Illinois school districts, enabling them to reduce pollution from their school bus fleets. The multi-faceted program includes assisting Illinois school districts in replacing existing buses with cleaner models, retrofitting existing buses with advanced emission control technologies and implementing cleaner fuels. The program, which also has an important educational component, will result in a healthier environment for Illinois’ school children and improving air quality in and around school buildings and throughout local communities. More than 60 school districts have received over $2.9 million to clean up over 2,000 buses, including 1,296 buses running on 20 percent biodiesel fuel in more than 20 school districts. In April 2005, Cook-Illinois Corporation’s fleet of 900 school buses became the largest in the nation to use biodiesel fuel.
- Illinois Classroom Hazardous Educational Waste Reduction: The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency developed a program for removing hazardous educational wastes from the state's school laboratories and classrooms. Hazardous educational waste reduction is an important component of the IEPA's overall effort to make our environment safer. The Illinois EPA works with local school districts to rid their classrooms of unused or leftover laboratory and curriculum products that are potentially hazardous or toxic. This also ensures that these chemicals do not end up in a landfill or are disposed of illegally. The Illinois EPA has conducted 612 Hazardous Education Waste Collections serving more than 409 communities disposing of more than 1,594 fifty-five gallon drums equivalents of toxic materials.
- Illinois Clean Schools: The Illinois EPA, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Waste Management Research Center have been working together to improve environmental conditions at Illinois schools to decrease, if not eliminate, the use of hazardous materials in the classroom.
In April 2006, the first health and safety workshop was held in Springfield.
Since November 2002, approximately 850 teachers have attended one of 33 safe chemicals in education workshops held throughout the state.
The Healthy Schools for Healthy Learning web site was supported by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, Air and Radiation Division.