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EPA Honors Jefferson County Public Schools for Implementing Exemplary Indoor Air Quality Program

Release Date: 12/06/2004
Contact Information: Dawn Harris-Young, (404) 562-8421, Laura Niles, (404) 562-8353,
Atlanta, GA, December 6, 2004 ---  Jefferson County Public Schools in Birmingham, Alabama is among 12 schools and districts selected to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) 2004 Excellence Award to protect indoor air quality for kids at school. The award was presented at EPA’s 5th Annual Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools National Symposium.

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) experienced an unusual and expensive IAQ problem when a smoke and chemical backup during a roof replacement led to the medical treatment of students and staff and required a $450,000 cleanup effort. Fortunately, administrators and teachers responded to this crisis by working together and improving communication. The local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) brought IAQ TfS to the attention of the district administrators and, along with the National Education Association (NEA), provided grant funding for IAQ training. Initial walk-through inspections revealed technical problems, such as closed dampers and clogged filters. Addressing problems that had existed for years, such as inadequate ventilation in the classrooms and asthmatic triggers, became higher priorities once channels of communication had improved and response procedures were in place. While continuing to resolve existing problems, JCPS is focusing on the future by introducing Best Practices for IAQ, implementing an EPA Grant, "A Breath of Fresh Air," and introducing a "Green Cleaning" pilot program in eight schools while serving as an IAQ mentor for other Alabama school districts.

The Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Excellence Award is EPA’s most prestigious award recognizing exemplary indoor air quality programs and commitment to providing a healthy learning environment for students and staff. The Excellence Award Winners are selected from hundreds of schools and districts nationwide that have implemented IAQ management programs and have seen dramatic improvements in indoor air quality. 

In 1995, EPA developed the voluntary IAQ TfS 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 IAQ TfS Kit is a flexible, comprehensive resource designed to help school staff identify, resolve, and prevent IAQ problems and is available to schools at no cost. Currently, an estimated 25,000 schools and school districts across the country are utilizing the Kit.

Approximately 500 school representatives; health specialists; technical and environmental experts; federal, state, and local government personnel; and non-profit organization members participated in the 2004 Symposium. Participants discussed how to implement IAQ programs in a school setting, including communications strategies, mold remediation, facilities management and school building design, student performance, financing and asthma management. For more information about EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program, please visit