How Healthy Schools Save Money

Classrooms

Classrooms

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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 emotionally.

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.

Promoting Movement

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 standing breaks.

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.

Financial Benefits

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.

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