Of the schools targeted through the Envision Program, # of schools requesting services
Story Behind the Curve
Last updated: January 2023
Author: Asthma & Envision Programs, Vermont Department of Health
The Envision Program was signed into statute in 2000 to help Vermont schools improve environmental health and indoor air quality. The program helps schools identify, prevent, and problem-solve potential environmental health and indoor air quality issues by providing a model environmental health management plan and policy, and encouraging use of best practices. Envision gives schools the tools, training, and technical assistance to create and maintain a healthier school environment. Creating a healthy school includes reducing exposure to environmental asthma triggers, infectious disease and other toxic substances, like asbestos, lead, radon and PCBs.
The chart above shows school interest in services supported by the Envision Program. In 2019, school participation dropped. This is likely because Vermont schools were focused on complying with the law that required all drinking and cooking water taps in schools to be tested for lead. In 2020, school participation dropped again due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures. In 2021 and 2022, thanks to strong partnerships and abundant funding, many Vermont schools received support to improve their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and learn how to clean and disinfect safely.
For more information on the Envision Program, please visit www.healthvermont.gov/envision.
- Efficiency Vermont - helps schools add to or improve their HVAC systems and to monitor their indoor air quality.
- Informed Green Solutions - helps schools reduce exposure to hazardous cleaning products and fragrances.
- Other patners:
- Vermont Superintendents Association (VSA)
- Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA)
- Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust (VSBIT)
- Facility Maintenance Directors Association (FMDA)
- Vermont State School Nurses' Association (VSSNA)
- Vendors (Empire, Foley, Hillyard and Swish)
- Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) - assist schools with science lab cleanouts, disposal of mercury containing devices, spill cleanup and drinking water testing.
- Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) - provides outreach to school administrators regarading environmental health in schools
- Vermont Buildings and General Services (BGS) - establishes statewide cleaning supply contracts using safer cleaners and disinfectants
- Vermont Department of Health Programs:
- Vermont Asthma Program - helps identify and reduce exposure to environmental asthma triggers in schools. and helps schools apply for Asthma Friendly School recognition
- Other environmental health programs like the Asbestos and Lead Regulatory Program, Lead in School and Child Care Drinking Water Program, Radon Program and PCBs in Schools Program to ensure schools understand the requirements of regulations.
An annual walkthrough is shown to be a best practice for helping schools identify environmental asthma triggers and environmental health concerns. Walkthroughs are conducted in-person by the Envision Coordinator or by school staff using the self-guided inspection checklist. The walkthrough is completed by school staff that have a role in ensuring environmental health and indoor air quality. This can include facilities managers, custodians, administrators, and school nurses. Observations from the walkthrough are summarized in a detailed report that provides guidance and recommendations for free and low-cost improvements that can help reduce asthma exacerbations and imporove indoor air quality.
These walkthroughs, although best-practice, were only done by a small number of schools prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic helped emphasize the importance of good indoor air quality. At the same time, a lot of federal funding became available to help schools address problems that contribute to poor indoor air quality and infectious disease transmission. This increased awareness and funding helped Efficiency Vermont and Informed Green Solutions deliver Envision and Asthma Program supported services (training and evaluation) to schools. Prior to the pandemic, less than five schools on average completed a walkthrough. In 2021 and 2022, the number of schools receiving services supported by the Envision and Asthma programs jumped up to 68 and 104 schools, respectively.
The Envision Program works with all relevant partners to promote the program and services provided by our partners, recruit schools to complete walkthroughs, and implement best practice recommendations. The number of schools that request and receive assistance are reported annually.