Tag Archives: School Health

Kids Learn Better in Healthy School Environment

Primary and secondary schools are responsible for providing a healthy and safe learning environment for schoolchildren in Washington State.

A healthy school environment keeps children’s minds alert and bodies strong. Poorly maintained school buildings can cause illness or make symptoms worse for children, teachers, and staff. This results in absences, missed schoolwork, and lower test scores. Schools that promote healthy environments can improve health and productivity for students and adults.

Middle school students in class.
Middle school students in class.

Washington State’s School Environmental Health and Safety Program works with local health jurisdictions, school districts, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, private schools, agencies and non-profits to promote incorporation of environmental health and safety into school facility design, operation, and maintenance. The program also provides support for implementation of the State Board of Health School Rule, Chapter 246-366 WAC.

Technical areas include controlling asthma triggers, science lab, art, and shop safety, hazardous waste management, injury prevention, playground safety, indoor air quality, ventilation, emergency response, communicable and vector-borne disease control, animals in schools, integrated pest management, cleaning and disinfection for health and safety, general safety, noise control, and lighting.

School Environmental Health Program Activities

— Work with, and provide technical assistance on school environmental health and safety issues to local health jurisdictions and school staff – including custodians, nurses, administrators, and maintenance and operations and risk managers.

— Provide interpretation and technical support on the State Board of Health School Rule (WAC 246-366), the K12 Health and Safety Guide, and the School Indoor Air Quality Best Practices Manual.

— Promote best practices through presentations, statewide committee participation, and work with school associations and state, local, and federal agencies.

— Available for phone and on-site consultation on school environmental health and safety issues, including indoor air quality.

— Available for presentations and trainings.

— Participate in the Department of Health and Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction Coordinated School Health Program funded by the CDC.

Healthy Indoor Air is Important

— Over 1 million Washington children spend about 1300 hours in a school building each year.

— One half of U.S. schools have indoor environmental quality problems (Source: EPA).

— Children in classrooms with higher outdoor air ventilation rates tend to have higher scores on standard math and reading tests than children in poorly ventilated classrooms (Source: EPA).

— Poor indoor air quality not only can trigger asthma episodes in susceptible children but also can cause drowsiness, fatigue, lethargy, headache, inability to concentrate, and eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation – all of which compromise learning. (Source: School Health Policies and Practices Study).

— Indoor concentrations of pollutants are commonly three to five times higher than outdoor concentrations due to chemicals found in some conventional cleaning products, improper cleaning procedures, defective or ineffective climate control (HVAC) systems, interior finishes, exterior pollutant, personal care products and renovation projects (Source: EPA).

See resources provided by the School Environmental Health Program

Source: Washington State Department of Health

Children’s Mental Health Awareness

Events across the country address the needs of children, youth, and young adults with mental health and substance use challenges and their families on this 10th Anniversary of the National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

Project AWARE - OSPI

Here in Washington, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is one of 20 state-level grantees for the Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) grant. The five-year nearly $10 million grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), builds OSPI’s and local partners’ capacity to:

  • Increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth
  • Provide training for school personnel, families, and community members to detect and respond to mental health issues in children and young adults
  • Connect youth and families with services


The intent of Project AWARE is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated program to advance wellness and resilience in educational settings for school-aged youth.

Project goals:

  • Improve overall school climate
  • Promote positive mental health among youth and families
  • Increase mental health literacy of school personnel and other adults
  • Increase access to school and community-based mental health services
  • Build the capacity and leadership to sustain community-based mental health promotion, prevention, early identification, and treatment services

By building on the Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) model, Project AWARE increases access to school and community-based mental health supports. Collaboration between state, local, and building-level behavioral health promotion is a significant component of the project. A diverse State Management Team drives this effort.

Sign Up for a Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

Project AWARE offers no cost trainings that are in-person and open to parents, school staff, and other community members in Washington State. The all-day training teaches adults how to identify and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse among youth.

Learn more about this training and Project Aware.

Source: Office of the Superindent of Public Instruction