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Boston public schools plagued by poor air quality

March 2, 2017
Inadequate ventilation is a problem in more than half of the city's schools.

More than half of Boston’s public schools are plagued by poor or deficient air quality, a city report says.

The Boston Globe reports that the air quality findings are based on an examination of schools’ ventilation systems or the lack of them, and other factors that can affect air quality, including the inability to open windows.

The examination determined that inadequate ventilation is a problem in more than half of the city's schools. Some buildings need new roofs or major repairs to improve air quality.

Poor air circulation can cause rooms to become hot, humid, and stuffy, which can trigger asthma attacks or other health issues. Leaky roofs can cause mold.

The asthma rate among students in city schools is about 16 percent, but some schools are higher than 30 percent, according to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy organization that focuses on workplace issues.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh says the poor air quality provides more evidence of the critical need to overhaul school buildings. More than half of Boston's schools were built before World War II and have been deteriorating. Walsh has pledged $1 billion toward upgrading education facilities over the next 10 years.

The report did not identify specific solutions to address the deteriorating buildings, and it sidestepped questions about whether any schools should be closed or replaced. The lack of overall ratings for each school makes it difficult to assess which are in the worst shape.

The report rates facilities in four categories: building condition; outside site conditions; learning environment, which includes air quality; and learning spaces, which focuses on adequate classroom size and space for gymnasiums, cafeterias, music, art, and other programs.

Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, says he is concerned that the report paints a rosy view of building conditions. He contends that too many buildings were deemed to be in fair condition and that more should have been rated as poor or deficient.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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