Healthy Schools PA Announces Recipients of
2016-2017 Healthy Schools Recognition Program
PITTSBURGH (June 20, 2017) – Healthy Schools PA, a program of Women for a Healthy Environment based in Pittsburgh, celebrates area schools as a part of their annual Healthy Schools PA Recognition Program.
Eight southwestern Pennsylvania schools are being honored for their year-long participation in the organization’s Healthy Schools Recognition Program, celebrating their progress in creating healthier and greener learning environments. “These schools are proactive and engaging the entire school community in created a healthier environment for students to learn and staff to work,” said Chelsea Holmes, WHE’s director of community education, “The ultimate goal is that each year the school works with us toward completion of additional activities and perhaps reaches a higher designation.”
This free recognition program has four recognition categories and provides a checklist of strategies schools can employ as part of their health and wellness or sustainability plans, as well as curricula. A checklist guides schools through the process. Healthy Schools PA’s assistance is provided free of charge with often little to no-cost solutions for many items on the checklist. “The checklist gave us benchmarks to reach, which was really helpful,” said Dr. Rick Walsh, principal at Wexford Elementary.
Alison Bresnahan, science teacher and Environmental Club facilitator at Kiski Area High School stated, “The checklist has given us ideas of other initiatives we can start, like a rain garden. That’s on our list for next year!”
The 2016-2017 honorees include: Eden Hall Upper Elementary and Wexford Elementary in the Pine-Richland School District; Environmental Charter School; Greenock Elementary School in the Elizabeth Forward School District; Kiski Area Upper Elementary and Kiski Area High School in the Kiski Area School District; Regency Park Elementary in the Plum Borough School District, and Shady Side Academy.
Eden Hall Upper Elementary serves a daily salad bar and implements a recycling program to establish a healthier learning environment. Classes have taken on initiatives such as energy reduction, sustainable energy, and other environmental activities.
Environmental Charter School has continued its efforts to improve sustainability and are taking their environment seriously by testing for lead and radon. They have also removed the use of artificial turf in play areas.
Greenock Elementary implemented a school-energy saving program. The school also provides summer cooking classes and incorporates the garden into the curriculum. Students select the plants for the garden and help maintain it over the summer months.
Kiski Area Upper Elementary engages their science students to think beyond the 3 R’s of Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse. Science classes started a compost system, installed a rain barrel and maintain a greenhouse. The school uses green cleaning products.
Kiski Area High School’s environment club have led the way to the school becoming sustainable through purchases from local vendors and farmers for their school’s salad bar. They have tested their water and tracked ambient air quality for harmful pollutants.
Regency Park Elementary was led by their 1st graders to create an edible garden. The entire student body participated in developing, implementing, and maintaining the garden along with composting. The edible garden symbolizes what can be done when students are given opportunities to work together across grade levels.
Shady Side Academy has incorporated the importance of the environment into their science curriculum and their environmental club is thriving. All staff have taken on the Green School initiatives and have incorporated them into their daily activities.
Wexford Elementary school continues to focus on wellness through a partnership between their PTO, school nurse, and administration. Along with the checklist for Healthy Schools PA, Wexford Elementary continues to maintain their organic garden and have added numerous health and nutrition events, including a health fair for the students.
Healthy Schools PA provides education, training, and information for parents, educators, administrators and students looking to improve the indoor and outdoor environmental profile of their schools and school districts. Registration is now open for the October 6 Healthy Schools Summit. Cost is $15 and includes meals. For more information or to register visit www.healthyschoolspa.org.
About Healthy Schools PA
Healthy Schools PA, a program of Women for a Healthy Environment, a nonprofit based in Pittsburgh, acts as an information hub and action-oriented resource with the tools, expertise, and step-by-step guidance that parents, educators, administrators, and students need to improve their school environments. Through webinars, school presentations, and delivery of environmental health curricula, the organization teaches school community members steps they can take to create a greener and healthier environment where students and staff can thrive.
Asthma at ‘epidemic’ levels in region’s schools, experts say on World Asthma Day
May 3, 2017 12:00 AM
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The official statistics on childhood asthma in Allegheny County are daunting: 26,000 kids, or almost 13 percent, are afflicted, significantly higher than the 8.4 percent rate nationwide.
The reality may be much worse.
As high as 1 in 4 underprivileged children living near smokestack pollution sources in the Clairton, Woodland Hills and Avonworth school districts have asthma, and another 10 percent are at risk of developing it, according to preliminary study results cited by Deborah Gentile, director of allergy and asthma clinical research at Pediatric Allergy, at a news conference Tuesday marking World Asthma Day.
“The link between pollution and asthma is well-established and has been for decades,” Dr. Gentile said, speaking in front of a massive mural depicting belching smokestacks and titled “Industry” in the Allegheny County Courthouse. “We need to make cleaning the air a priority for the future of the region and for our children.”
She said asthma is the No. 1 chronic reason children miss days at school, and their absences affect both their schoolwork and their ability to earn in the future.
“Asthma is an epidemic in our schools,” said Michelle Buford, educational program specialist at Healthy Schools Pennsylvania, “but it’s one that can be addressed and suppressed with funding for improvements to indoor spaces.”
Ms. Buford said half of all schools in the U.S. have poor air quality, and school districts should have strategies in place to address the problem, including high-quality air circulation systems, use of “green” cleaning products, regular walk-through inspections to identify poor air quality areas, better air intake filters, and teacher and staff training to handle asthma attacks.
Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, and Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said that despite recent improvements in air quality, more controls on pollutants and enforcement actions against pollution violators are needed.
“It is absolutely imperative that local regulators and policymakers do more to clean the air,” Ms. Filippini said. “A permit, regulation, contract or piece of legislation is only a piece of paper if our regulators aren’t willing to enforce them.”
Ms. Wagner noted that her office’s audit of the Allegheny County Health Department last year found deficiencies in its permitting and enforcement programs.
“The Health Department’s reliance on consent decrees allows polluters to write their own ticket,” she said. “If we want to be a progressive region, we have to own up to and solve these problems.”
Patrice Tomcik, a field organizer with Moms Clean Air Force, which organized the news conference, expressed concern that the Trump administration’s rollback of air quality rules would have a devastating impact on children in the Pittsburgh region, which once again was ranked in the top 10 most polluted metropolitan areas in the nation by the American Lung Association.
“Too many mothers already watch their children struggle to take a breath,” she said.
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter @donhopey.
“Yet in Pennsylvania, there isn’t a single law requiring public school districts to test for environmental toxins like radon in the air, lead in the paint, or lead in the drinking water if they use a municipal water supply. As a result, many schools don’t regularly conduct testing, and some have never tested at all.”