Poor indoor air quality in schools has been linked to decreased student and teacher performance, and increased absenteeism. Unhealthy air quality can result in acute symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea, and lethargy, and chronic conditions such as asthma and allergy.
Envision—Promoting Healthy School Environments was created by the Legislature in 2000 as part of the School Environmental Health Act (Act 125) to address these issues by providing model environmental health management plans and guidance for schools.
The Envision program packet contains a model environmental health plan and policy, sample procedures, letters of support, and a resource guide.
- Program goal
- Enrollment and participation
- How the program works
- Tools for implementing your plan
- Roles and responsibilities
The program is a joint effort by the Vermont Departments of Health, Buildings and General Services, and the Agency of Education, which work together to:
- create and maintain a clearinghouse of environmental health information on the Department of Health’s website
- provide technical assistance to schools
- provide workshops on environmental health for school personnel
- to develop a model environmental health plan and policy
- to encourage and assist schools in developing programs that will enable them to address and prevent environmental health issues through the voluntary participation of schools.
The Envision program is based in the Department of Health. Questions or inquiries about the program, model plan, or technical assistance on a school environmental health issue should be directed to:
Vermont Department of Health
P.O. Box 70 , 108 Cherry Street
Burlington , VT 05402
The goal of the Envision program is to assist schools in creating and implementing environmental health management plans. We do this by educating schools on environmental health issues, and providing a sustainable means to identify, prevent, and “problem-solve” potential environmental health and indoor air quality (IAQ) issues.
Act 125 calls for a set of minimum guidelines, which include, but are not limited to the following:
- Determining if environmental health problem(s) or potential problems exist in your school. Prioritizing them with respect to health risk to the general school population, ease of change and cost.
- Establishing a plan of action to mitigate or eliminate, to the extent possible, any existing environmental health problems. Create a method to manage health questions, concerns, complaints and incidents as they occur.
- Implementing strategies to avoid potential environmental health problems by reducing exposure to irritants and chemicals and maintaining and/or repairing equipment or structural issues that could lead to potential environmental health problems.
- Promoting environmental health awareness through dissemination of information and involvement in environmental health programs. Supporting your environmental health plan by documenting and sharing your success with the school community.
- Ensuring that your environmental health program is sustained by keeping documentation of all implemented and proposed plans and resolutions accessible to the public and by creating a means to review and update your program on a yearly basis.
Participation in Envision also will enable schools to utilize existing related programs to help create a comprehensive School Environmental Health Management Plan.
Program Enrollment and Participation
Enrollment into the Envision program is voluntary. The legislation does not impose new mandates on schools.
The Envision program provides the following:
- A model Environmental Health Management Plan
- A model Environmental Health Policy
- Samples of four model procedures on: Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, Integrated Pest Management, Purchasing of Least/non-hazardous products, and Construction/Renovation
- A resource guide including information on environmental health issues and contacts
- Training session and workshop opportunities on environmental health issues and EPA’s Tools for Schools
- Technical support contact
- A mentor to assist in the implementation of your environmental health management plan
- Eligibility for the Envision - Certificate of Achievement for Environmental Health in Schools from the Commissioners of Health, Education, and Building & General Services for the progress and improvement made in creating a healthier school environment.
- The certificate is awarded to schools who complete the implementation of the environmental health management plan, provide documentation, and show commitment to sustainability via the adoption of various environmental health policies and procedures
Envision Participation Survey
The Vermont Department of Health conducted a survey of Vermont's public schools to gauge the level of participation in the Envision Program and to learn about practices in schools that affect environmental health.
How does the program work?
The Envision program was designed so schools could successfully bring about improvements and progress in their goal towards creating and maintaining a healthier school environment.
The first step is to identify members that will belong to the environmental health and safety committee. Members include an administrator, nurse, buildings / facilities worker, teacher, parent and student.
A school or school district becomes an Envision Partner when the core standards of the Envision Program are completed. The core standards include:
- Adopting an environmental health management policy and plan;
- Adopting purchasing policies that specify nontoxic or least toxic materials;
- Adopting an integrated pest management and control program to reduce pesticide exposure in and around the school and;
- Completing an annual school environmental heath workshop approved by the Department of Health
A school / district can further demonstrate exemplary progress in improving environmental health and indoor air quality by progressing in four environmental health areas. These environmental health areas include:
- Replacing a number of products with least toxic or non-toxic products;
- Replacing pesticide used in and around the school with integrated pest management steps that reduce pesticide exposures;
- Using environmental health management practices to reduce exposure to hazardous materials;
- Reducing exposures to environmental triggers to decrease the severity of asthma or allergy reactions at the school;
- Implementing healthy cleaning and grounds-keeping measures;
- Radon testing and remediation, if necessary;
- Involving students in the environmental health management plan efforts through special events, clubs, or classroom activities;
- Mentoring other schools in the district and;
- Addressing other school environmental priorities.
Progress in these areas makes the school / district eligible for the Envision Certificate of Achievement under the School Environmental Health Act 125. Any projects or programs a school is already involved in can be integrated into the Envision program, subject to approval from the Department of Health.
Tools for implementing your School Environmental Health Management Plan
Act 125 and the model environmental health management plan were created utilizing the EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools (IAQ TfS) action kit as its foundation. Therefore, most of the minimum guidelines called out by Act 125 already have a “tool” (e.g. pre-made checklists, model policies, memos, and letters) in the IAQ TfS action kit that can be utilized and/or modified as needed.
It is recommended that schools take advantage of the action kit to help them get started. There is a great deal of useful information on environmental health topics, pre-made checklists, suggestions, and sources of information. If your school does not have an IAQ TfS action kit or would like the new version please contact us for information on how to obtain a copy.
If you are interested in kit training:
Contact the Department of Health:
Or contact the Environmental Protection Agency:
Tools for Schools Program Coordinator
EPA Region 1 Office
You may also call the Customer Call Center at 1-888-372-7341.
All or portions of IAQ TfS may be downloaded from the EPA website
Schools may incorporate/combine existing programs and associated information with IAQ TfS.
Roles and Responsibilities
It will take the combined efforts of many persons to implement and maintain a successful environmental health management plan and program. The following is a brief outline of the general roles and responsibilities of the persons involved.
Department of Health
- Hold and/or identify workshops for schools
- Provide technical support regarding environmental and/or IAQ issues
- Point of contact for resources and information
School’s Environmental Health Committee
- Research and develop plans
- Maintain documentation
- Make recommendations to the administration
- Implement Environmental Health Committee recommendations
- Delegate authority to implement recommendations
- Adopt procedures recommended by the Environmental Health committee
- Adopt policies recommended by the School Administration and/ or Environmental Health Committee