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EPA Honors Westborough, Mass., Schools for Implementing Exemplary Indoor Air Quality Program

Release Date: 10/27/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014 Dr. Les Olson, Westborough Public Schools, (508) 836-7702

BOSTON - Westborough, Mass. schools today received a national award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their work in improving air quality in the school system. The Westborough public school district was among two school districts from New England and 16 nationally that received the prestigious "Tools for Schools" national award at a ceremony today in Washington DC.

EPA's prestigious Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Excellence Award recognizes exemplary indoor air quality programs and commitment to providing a healthy learning environment for students and staff. Westborough was recognized for successfully using the Tools for Schools program to improve air quality and raise awareness about air quality issues.

Steve Johnson, EPA's acting deputy administrator, presented the award to Westborough Public Schools during the fourth annual Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools National Symposium in Washington, D.C.

"Tools For Schools was critical to our efforts to improve the health and safety of our schools for our faculty and staff," noted Les Olson, assistant superintendent of the Westborough Schools. "It provided a common language and simple framework that we could all understand and follow as we started to investigate what was happening in our schools. The process allows us to communicate our success in providing a healthier environment as well as procedures to follow in resolving issues when they do occur."

In 1995, the EPA developed the voluntary the Tools for School kit and program in response to government studies highlighting the deteriorating conditions of the nation's schools and the alarming rise in asthma cases, particularly among school and preschool age children. Asthma alone accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. Today, one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma. The free kit is designed to help school staff identify, resolve, and prevent indoor air quality problems. About 10,000 schools and school districts across the country use this program.

"EPA is proud to recognize Westborough among the district using this effective indoor air quality program," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Schools like this one make the health of its students and staff a priority. These programs serve as a model for other schools to address indoor air quality and provide a healthy and productive learning environment."

A strong indoor air quality program and a wide range of allies established Westborough Public Schools as a model for local schools to maintain a healthy environment. The district was inspired to take a more active approach to protecting children's health after an unexplained outbreak of an upper respiratory infection in an elementary school closed the building for six weeks.When the teacher's union expressed concerns about poor indoor air quality, the Massachusetts Teachers Association provided training, turning Westborough's teachers into enthusiastic supporters. Westborough Public Schools created an IAQ manual that has been shared with other school districts.

For more information about the EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program, visit