Legislature develops environmental hazards plan for schools
Friday, May 12, 2017
Since last summer schools have been faced with the challenge of testing their buildings for lead contamination. Fallout from a third-party investigation of Portland Public Schools has made lead testing and mitigation efforts hot-button issues in districts across the state.
Not only parents but also Oregon’s governor and state legislators want assurances that drinking school water doesn’t pose a health risk to students and staff.
Stakeholders worked with the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority on a plan that would create transparency and communications between school districts and the community about potential environmental hazards in school. Those initial plans, the Healthy and Safe Schools Plans, were submitted Jan. 1 to ODE.
The stakeholder group continued meeting with legislators to discuss how to address other potential environmental hazards in schools. Senate Bill 1062 would highlight other possible environmental hazards and create the necessary transparency, education and process to ensure the community, students, staff and schools are informed about hazards and how schools will address them.
“We’ve worked hard to balance the safety of students and staff against the lack of sufficient resources to address each and every environmental hazard a school might have,” OSBA Interim Director of Legislative Services Lori Sattenspiel testified this week before the Senate Rules Committee. “This bill provides transparency and a process for staff, students and parents to be assured health issues will continually be addressed.”
The bill puts the Healthy and Safe Schools Plans into statute and addresses other possible environmental hazards that will be added to a new plan. Provisions include:
A protocol for how often a district will test for lead in water, to be determined by a work group.
Carbon monoxide detectors, to be located where combustibles are present.
A fund to reimburse schools for future lead testing and carbon monoxide detector costs.
Information provided by ODE and the health authority on best practices for reducing other environmental hazards and information sheets for districts to use informing parents of environmental hazards, such as mold, and other air quality issues, such as idling buses.
ODE would create a new model plan that addresses the elements in this bill. School districts would take the model plan and create district-specific plans. ODE would have the new plan available for districts to use by January 2019, and the new plans would need to be completed and submitted to ODE by July 1, 2019.
The committee did not act on the bill during the hearing.