Panel to Discuss Environmental Conditions in Rochester Schools

April 25, 2005

"We are now beginning to recognize that the environmental health of schools is of equal importance to the quality of a child’s learning as teacher quality and class size."

A comprehensive study of New York State schools has concluded that a school’s environment has a substantial impact on student health, achievement, attendance and overall well-being. 

The University of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center is sponsoring a community forum to help parents, students and teachers identify and fix environmental problems in their school, such as polluted indoor air and toxic chemical uses. The forum, titled Healthy School Environments, will be held on Wednesday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. at the Rochester Museum and Science Center Bausch and Lomb Auditorium.  The event is free and open to the public.

“Children spend the majority of their waking hours in schools,” said Stephen Boese, the forum’s keynote speaker and New York State Director of the Healthy Schools Network.  “We are now beginning to recognize that the environmental health of schools is of equal importance to the quality of a child’s learning as teacher quality and class size.”

National trends point to a dramatic increase in the number of children afflicted with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and autism.  These conditions are linked with environmental toxins that may be found in schools.  Additionally, poor school indoor air is a major contributor to causing and exacerbating asthma, which is reaching epidemic proportions among school age children.

Boese will discuss the findings of his organization’s recent survey of the indoor air and environmental quality of over 300 New York State schools. He will also highlight current state policies on school facilities and environmental quality and the emerging consensus that more needs to be done to protect children, teachers and school personnel from indoor environmental hazards.  The Healthy Schools Network – based in Albany, New York – promotes the development of state and federal policies, regulations, and funding for environmentally-safe school facilities.

Other panelists at the forum include: Judy Braiman, Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides; David Duford, Director of Educational Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety, Monroe #1 BOCES; Camille Martina, a former teacher in the Rochester School System; Suzanne Wheatcraft, Coordinator of Environmental Safety, Rochester City School District; Ed Yurkstas, Monroe County Department of Public Health.

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Mark Michaud
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