Delayed School Start Dates Underscore Need for Proper Indoor Air Quality

Hundreds of students got unexpected news as they geared up for back to school – their first day for the 2018-2019 school year was pushed back. While many kids were celebrating an extended summer vacation, many parents and community members were left with questions about the conditions of school buildings.

The cause of the delay? Problems with indoor air quality, mold, and damage caused from the hot weather. These issues affected school start dates in seven districts across southwestern Pennsylvania, including:

School District Schools Environmental Hazard Found Action Taken
Shaler High School Spores found in air quality tests Delayed opening to Sept. 4
Highlands High School Mold Delayed opening to Sept. 4
Plum-Borough High School, Obleck Middle School Mold found in 3 classrooms Delayed opening for the district to Sept. 4
Mt. Pleasant Junior-Senior High School Water damage around windows causing mold Delayed opening to Sept. 4; remediation on going through Reynold’s Restoration
Pine-Richland Hance Elementary School Mold on ceilings Moved to Eden Hall Elementary School while remediation occurs
Southmoreland High School Air quality Remediation ongoing
North Allegheny McKnight Elementary School Mold in classrooms Children moved from affected areas; remediation on-going by AGX Environmental Consultants

While these issues are not uncommon at the end of the summer, there are ways schools and school districts can prevent them. The Environmental Protection Agency published guidelines, titled “Tools for Schools” that help schools create and implement healthy indoor air quality plans. Under these guidelines are several resources intended to help members of a school community – from teachers, to students; to parents and facilities directors – to make informed decisions to protect children’s health.

Children spend up to 1,000 hours in school every year. We must all do what we can to protect the environments in which they live, learn, and play. The first step is getting informed and pursuing preventive strategies, rather than just remediation once a problem has been identified. Together, we can take important steps to ensure delayed school starts are prevented.


Back to School Updates

Pennsylvania New School Code

The new School Code was passed by the General Assembly, signed off by Gov. Tom Wolf, and includes testing for the presence of lead in school drinking water for the 2018-2019 school year. The School Code now states that if testing results show lead levels that are unacceptable according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, the school must produce a remediation plan and provide alternative drinking water until retesting reveals acceptable levels. If a school district chooses to forgo the testing of their water this school year, the school district must hold a public hearing to further discuss lead within school facilities. To read the full bill (Section 742),

Two Western PA Schools Honored as Green Ribbon Schools

In 2017-2018 we had 30 schools throughout Allegheny County participate in our program. Two of our schools even went on to receive designations as 2018 Green Ribbon Schools: Mount Lebanon High School and Wexford Elementary School. Both of these schools participated in our Healthy Schools Recognition Program for a number of years and received our highest level of High Honor Roll with Distinction!

Please congratulate these two fine schools and all they have accomplished! They will be recognized in Washington, DC on September 19, 2018 for their Green Ribbon School status!

Back to School Supplies

How can we ensure this school year is as healthy for your students and staff as possible? There are several ways Healthy Schools PA can help you!

We have prepared this “Healthy Back to School Checklist” to provide you with tools and tips for choosing safer products to fill your classrooms. And check out US PIRG Education Fund’s “Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide” to ensure the right products come into your school buildings!

Take Action Today!
Ask your school administrator if she/he has applied for the 1000 Hours mini-grant program, which provides funding to test, and remediate for two potentially present, but preventable health hazards in the building – lead and radon.

If your school is in need of testing for lead in drinking water, please see our 1000 Hours a Year grant program! We have a limited number of mini grants available!

Contact Healthy Schools PA for free technical assistance for your school.

Chronic Absenteeism

It’s as elemental as it gets — keeping kids in the classroom means they have more opportunities to learn. That’s one reason why daily attendance has historically been such an important measure for schools. However, while no one questions this fact, it turns out that measuring kids in class may not be as straightforward as most of us assume.


Back to School

It’s that time of year again, summer is winding down and that to back to school feeling is in the air. Stores are stocked up on school supplies and between new pens, pencils, binders and lunch boxes, it can be difficult to decide which products are healthy and safe for school students. To make choosing school supplies easy for parents and students, Healthy Schools PA has put together a ” Green Guide for Back to School” to make sure this school year will be a safe and healthy!

Fragrance-Free Schools Video Contest Winners:

1st Place Winner

Souderton Area High School

Watch Video Here


Livia Molinaro

Franklin Regional School District

Watch Video Here


Every day students suffer because of allergies and asthma triggered by fragrances. In fact, about 30% of the population suffers from allergies and is, in some degree, affected by fragrances. Approximately 5 to 10% of the population are extremely sensitive to these scented products—and these sensitivities can have a severe impact on the lives of both adults and students.

For more information on Fragrance-Free Schools, click here!

Special thanks to the Highmark Foundation for sponsoring this contest!

View the informative webinar “IPM and Schools: Lice, Bed Bugs and Beyond” here:

Lyn Garling and Michelle Niedermeier, both with the PA Integrated Pest Management Program, present information regarding best management practices in the school setting. Lyn and Michelle have extensive experience in this field and will cover all topics related to pest management in the school setting. Questions regarding pest management? This is the session for you! This webinar is relevant for all audiences: parents, teachers, facility directors and employees, and administration. Contact us at 412.404.2872 or to receive more information.

Webinar link: