A model for schools to use in developing new state-mandated Healthy and Safe Schools Plans to address toxics hazards in buildings is now available from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
Release of the template comes as the state’s 197 school districts face an Oct. 1 deadline to submit a preliminary version of their Healthy and Safety Schools Plan. School districts have until Jan. 1, 2017, to submit a final plan. Updates are required each year or when new buildings are acquired, constructed, or leased.
The template covers four areas covered by the Department of Education mandate: radon; lead in drinking water; lead paint; and integrated pest management. The state had previously required districts to test for radon and implement best practices for pest management. In accordance with existing state law, districts must show that businesses working on projects involving painted surfaces in old buildings are certified to follow lead-safe work practices.
Nazarov, ODE’s legislative coordinator, said the model plan sets a baseline for district plans, and that districts are free to supplement with more detail. She’s not hearing complaints from districts about completing the plan.
“I don’t think it’s going to be difficult,” she said.
The State Board of Education adopted the reporting requirement on Aug. 17, driven in large part by disclosures earlier this year of lead content in the drinking water of some Portland Public Schools sites.
While the Healthy and Safe Schools Plan doesn’t set a timeline for districts to actually test their water systems for high lead levels, most districts have either completed tests or have launched testing.
An OSBA survey in early August found that 88 percent of the 104 responding schools were already testing their drinking water and several others planned tests this fall.
Next week, the state Emergency Board will consider a Legislative Fiscal Office recommendation to establish a $5 million reserve in the state Emergency Fund to reimburse school districts and education service districts for testing costs. The office estimated that the funding should be adequate to reimburse districts at a level of $35 per test.
In July, Portland reported having already spent $1 million on testing. Salem-Keizer said it had spent $350,000, while Beaverton’s expenses ran to $250,000.
Lori Sattenspiel, an OSBA legislative services specialist, said districts appear to be settling into the new planning process, after an initial sense of crisis about a new mandate and the prospect of having to invest in major water system upgrades.
If such upgrades are necessary, she said, “the next big thing will be costs.”