ALEXANDRIA, Va. — On Jan. 30, the Alexandria-headquartered National School Boards Association (NSBA) kicked off a program aimed at helping school board members take sustainability efforts to the next level. The organization’s Clean, Green and Safe Schools initiative provides school board members with information to help them develop policies and protocols to provide safe and healthy school environments, according to a statement by the organization. The initiative also provides board members with access to experts to help develop and implement a working plan to improve school buildings.
A school’s physical structure is a critical component to student success, according to a statement by the NSBA. As such, the Clean, Green and Safe Schools initiative also focuses on improving school safety and energy and cost efficiency to ensure school buildings continue to provide an optimal learning environment.
Studies have found positive correlations between building conditions and student performance, the organization noted in a statement. In 2010, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency found that that students who attend schools in poor condition score 11 percent lower on standardized tests than students who attend schools in good condition.
“School board members across the country believe every school-age child deserves the finest public K-12 education possible,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and CEO, NSBA, in a statement. “Striving to provide the highest-quality education — one that enables every student to achieve their full potential — is grounded in many factors including the learning environment.”
The organization also pointed to a 2016 report issued by the Center for Green Schools, which estimated that the country spends approximately $46 billion less annually on school construction and maintenance than is needed to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment. One in six people in America, according to the NSBA statement, spend their day in a K-12 school and schools represent the largest public building sector in America. However, the last Government Accounting Office evaluation of school infrastructure was completed in 1995, and the average American school is now 44 years old.
Gentzel noted in a statement that school board members are often forced to choose between maintaining the facilities and keeping teachers — a no win choice in which students ultimately lose.
“A challenge exists to upgrade facilities with capital budgets that are tight,” he added. “Fortunately, creative solutions exist to help school boards address these environmental and infrastructure conditions so they can focus on their primary goal: serving students.”