School Safety and Green Schools

School Safety and Green Schools

Robert Waller (North Georgia College and State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6312-1.ch025


Leaders in global communities face many issues and challenges in planning, securing funding, designing, and constructing safe, sustainable green schools. This chapter provides an overview of various safety challenges that have an impact on the safety of air quality in schools and reasons why green schools are safer and healthier schools. Suggestions are provided in each section to help administrators and districts move conventionally constructed schools closer to green safe spaces for students, staff, and teachers.
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Building Sites

The first safety concern for building green schools should be the selection of the building site. Sutak (2008) delivered a scathing indictment of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) “public work disaster of biblical proportions” (p. 427). In 1985 when LAUSD faced overcrowding, the district proposed a new school that would serve mostly minority students from low-income neighborhoods on land that had been the site of an abandoned oilfield. Although a state report warned of the toxic risks, construction crew broke ground in 1997. Two years later, the state officials halted construction due to concerns over insufficient testing and the absence of a risk mitigation plan to eliminate gases gathering beneath partially completed buildings. Three years later, in 2000, construction was stopped altogether when parents and LAUSD knew that the site was saturated with toxins. By 2005, LAUSD spent $1.7 million on site cleanup and planned to spend an additional $111 million to rebuild structures that had been halted prior to completion. Unfortunately, this is not the only example of unhealthy school buildings or schools built on unsafe locations.

More recently in 2013, another school building site in California was described as “toxic and unsafe” by some city leaders and members of the public (Piersall & Graham, 2013). The land adjoining the west side of the building site where the fifth Irvine city high school is expected to be built has an old capped military base landfill that had been used from 1943 to 1955 and is likely to be contaminated with scrap metal, incinerator ash, construction debris, solvents, and hydraulic fluid. In addition to environmental safety issues, the community and families of students were concerned that the James A. Musick jail is just east of the proposed new school site. In Orange County, California, 20 schools are located less than a mile from a county jail. Sixteen of those schools are in Santa Ana, surrounding the Central Jail Complex, a facility that houses minimum to maximum-security prisoners.

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