Academic journal article Journal of School Health

How One School District Decided on a Carpet Policy. (Health Service Applications)

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

How One School District Decided on a Carpet Policy. (Health Service Applications)

Article excerpt

The school environment represents one of eight components of a coordinated school health program, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1,2) An increased prevalence of asthma among school-aged children, and national efforts to augment asthma management in schools, necessitate a renewed focus on the school environment in many schools and districts.

Health-related information and mechanisms to translate that information into school policy are already in place for a number of environmental issues. For example, ill-effects of second-hand smoke (3) and the influence of adult role modeling on students (4) obviate the need for no-smoking policies on school campuses. As a result, almost all school districts have no-smoking policies in school buildings, and more than 82% prohibit smoking on school grounds and at off-campus events. (5) Similarly, the prevalence and severity of allergies to cat, dog, and the dander of other animals is well known. School nurses, health educators, and others who work regularly on school sites often can influence their colleagues about the adverse effects classroom pets can have on students and staff. In comparison, flooring policy (and specifically carpeting versus hard flooring) is a school environmental concern significantly less likely to be modified as a result of the direct influence of school health personnel alone.

Research-based information on flooring policy is not as readily available as other issues affecting the schools' indoor air quality. (6) Controversy also surrounds the health ramifications of carpeting. Many health professionals presume that any school district policy that mandates hard floors in favor of carpeted floors is unquestionably preferable. Alternatively, reading materials provided by the Carpeting-Rug Institute argue compellingly that carpeting is equally acceptable, if not preferable, to other flooring options. This organization, which represents carpet manufacturers, suppliers, and the carpet maintenance industry, provides a great deal of useful information on the Internet and elsewhere (7-9) on this matter. Being a trade organization with financial interest in carpet sales does not necessarily discredit the information provided, yet the selection of data shared with the public by the institute could be prone to some bias.

STEPS IN POLICY DEVELOPMENT

San Diego (Calif.) City Schools' health professional and health-administrative staff re-examined a carpeting policy for their schools. The process this district underwent to arrive at a new set of recommendations can be helpful for other school districts.

1. Self-Assessment. A decade-old policy of this school district restricted all wall-to-wall carpeting, with only some very restrictive exceptions. This policy was well-meaning, but not wholly effective. For various reasons, school administrators and staff in most schools across the district brought their own area rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting. Some were donated and others were purchased by principals using site-specific discretionary funds. Carpets were old and poorly maintained. Vacuum schedules were not always established, and vacuuming often served only to recirculate dust and other allergens into the air. No budget or policy was established to regularly launder or replace area rugs.

Some validity supported the reasons given by administrators, teachers, and other school staff for non-compliance with the policy. Preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students often sit on the floor when they learn. They require something other than a cold, hard surface. Many schools were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s when "loft classrooms" were popular. As many as six to eight classrooms were combined into one space without walls, and only neck-high room dividers demarcated one learning area from another. Without carpeting, echoes in those classrooms were deafening. These acoustic reasons were equally valid for many schools' media centers and libraries. …

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