How Healthy Schools Save Money
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While most efforts to make students
healthier have gone to nutritional
and physical education (PE)
programs, protecting the health of
the classroom and understanding the
financial benefits of healthful spaces
are too often missing elements.
Protecting Classroom Health
Healthy classrooms are the bedrock
on which we help build minds to be
at their best, physically, mentally and
Like personal health, classroom
health involves many factors. The
Healthy and Safe Facility Handbook
provides foundational guidance on indoor
air quality, water quality, desired
ambient sound level, lighting, cleaning,
disinfecting, ergonomics and more; as
part of an ecosystem.
The CDC reports that one third of
adults are obese, and childhood and
adolescent obesity have increased
dramatically in recent years.
Promoting movement in classrooms
is among the newest and most promising
steps to help combat obesity, sluggish
bodies and minds.
One example is adjustable standing
desks, as the act of standing burns more
calories and improves blood flow to
the brain, and an adjustment allows for
sitting as desired. Evidence shows that a
170-pound person burns only 139 calories
sitting vs 186 calories an hour standing.
Chairs that swivel and provide flexible
back support enable motion for a
healthy amount of fidgeting, plus allow
rotating the chair in the direction of
the instructor or instruction.
Since standing desks and new
seating may not be practical in the
short term, take regular stretching and
Protect the Air
Check carbon dioxide (CO2) levels
(from exhalation), temperature and
humidity using a portable meter (less
than a $130 expense), and work with
the HVAC department to adjust the
ambient environment and increase
ventilation as needed.
Promote Mental, Emotional Health
Depression and anxiety are all too
common. A 2015 National Institute of
Mental Health (NIMH) report said that
12.5 percent of the U.S. population
aged 12 to 17 had a major depressive
episode, and the Anxiety and Depression
Association of America (ADAA)
said anxiety disorders are the most
common mental illness in the U.S.,
affecting 40 million adults in the U.S.
age 18 and older, or 18 percent of the
population. ADAA also reports that
major depressive disorders are the
leading cause of disability in the U.S.
for ages 15 to 44.
Be Easy to Talk To
Look for signs of problems, seek out
students that are withdrawn or sullen
and be approachable. Talk about mental/emotional health in a matter-of-fact
way. Get familiar with, suggest and post
local mental health resources.
Since making schools healthy in order
to produce healthy students is a focus
of the Healthy and Safe Facility Handbook,
be assured that producing healthy
classrooms does not cost, it pays, when
measured in student outcomes.
Per the CDC: “Healthy students are
better learners. Healthy students are better
on all levels of academic achievement,
academic performance (class grades,
standardized tests and graduation rates),
education behavior (attendance, behavior)
and cognitive skills and attitudes
(concentration, memory and mood).
“Healthy, successful students help
build strong communities. Investing in
the health of students contributes to
healthy communities in the future.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.