From the fast-approaching cold and flu season to the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of factors that suggest indoor environmental monitoring could be the key to ensuring safe and healthy classrooms for students and staff and improving academic performance.
Standardized Testing Returns This School Year
During the year-plus that students and teachers spent adapting to online learning, the U.S. Department of Education declared that students in pandemic-impacted states would be allowed an exemption from standardized testing. Given the severity of the pandemic, it comes to no surprise that this included every state in the U.S. This school year, however, the Biden administration issued a statement that schools would once again be responsible for administering the standard math and reading testing and reporting the results. The intention is to resume annual check-ins on the effectiveness of each school’s curriculum and assess the impact of virtual learning on student progress across the grade levels and across the country.
It’s crucial that states are adequately prepared for this year’s testing because standardized tests are often used to determine allocation of federal funding for education, and funds can be important after a tough year dealing with pandemic-related challenges. Some Minnesota schools are already seeing decreased scores due to the difficulties of the hybrid learning during the pandemic, despite statewide efforts to still administer adapted proficiency tests based on traditional standardized testing formats during the COVID-19-affected school year.
Though there are a variety of uncontrollable COVID-19-related factors that have impacted and continue to affect student learning and growth, school leaders are able to put the most effort into the independent variables that they can control, such as test prep strategies and comfortable learning and testing conditions. For example, indoor air quality makes a bigger difference on student focus and performance than one might expect.
How Air Quality and Classroom Conditions Affect Academic Performance
Studies have shown that adjustable environmental conditions being adapted to the highest level of student comfort can lead to higher levels of attention and focus during class and better performance during testing. Once the distraction of being too hot, too cold, or too stuffy is removed from the equation, matters of primary importance like schoolwork and assessments are returned to the front of students’ and teachers’ minds.
There are a variety of ways to optimize air quality and conditions, such as:
- Opening or closing windows for outdoor air ventilation
- Ensuring proper maintenance of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems
- Tracking temperature and humidity levels in classrooms and testing rooms
- Monitoring the use of chemicals in regular building cleaning
Good IAQ can also help minimize the health issues picked up or exacerbated during time spent in school, like asthma, spread of viral illnesses, or moisture, dust, and mold-related respiratory problems, which in turn minimizes absences and maximizes time spent in class. Better attendance means more exposure to learning materials and more time spent engaging with educators, which means higher levels of understanding and subsequently higher testing scores.
Additionally, controlled IAQ and environmental conditions are essential to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools; we are only beginning to see the academic repercussions of the time lost to hybrid learning, and troubleshooting issues before they happen is one of the best ways to ensure that kids stay in class for longer.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools establish an IAQ management program. The agency suggests encouraging staff and student autonomy over their environment, like opening and closing doors and windows and weighing in on ideal room temperatures or AC and heating settings. They also recommend that schools implement environmental monitoring systems to track classroom temperature and humidity levels, which will solve moisture (and therefore mold!) issues.
Primex Solutions for Optimized Classroom Indoor Air Quality
There is a plethora of Primex OneVue® products that can help with facility IAQ management. For example, Temperature and Humidity Indoor Air Quality Sensors from the OneVue Sense™ portfolio track classroom air temperature and humidity levels and provide alerts when conditions exceed or fall below a customizable range — which allows you to take corrective action. Uncontrolled temperature and humidity in classrooms could lead to:
- Lower immune system effectivity, making students more susceptible to infectious illnesses like colds, COVID-19, or the flu
- Mold growth due to high moisture levels, which leads to educational performance problems for students and health issues
With ambient air temperature and humidity monitoring, moisture levels come under control. Don’t let poor IAQ disadvantage students or staff during learning hours.
Primex Solutions for Keeping Your School on Schedule
The OneVue Sync™ synchronized time solution can help facility managers eliminate “time drift,” a situation in which clocks slowly deviate from each other and from true time, so that students and teaching staff can count on each clock throughout testing rooms and the rest of the building being reliable and precise. With both analog and digital clock options available, there are multiple ways to ensure that students and test administrators have exact knowledge — down to the second — about start times, end times, and remaining time, allowing for the best execution of effective school schedules, test strategies, and time management.
OneVue Sync offers three different technologies for synchronized time to ensure a fit in any institution, from wireless solutions like 72 MHz technology or Bluetooth® Low Energy to a wired option: Power over Ethernet.
Primex Solutions for Ensuring Safe In-Person Attendance
For ultimate insurance that school days go off without a hitch, and to promote optimum health, safety, and performance among students and educators, Primex OneVue Sense also offers Water Leak Sensors — to monitor expensive, essential systems like HVAC units and pipes — and Temperature Sensors — to help ensure that cafeteria food and medicine storage units remain operating safely. Keeping students and staff fueled with proper food and attention to health, as well as monitoring important building systems to eliminate schedule disruptions and keep school safe and in session, are essential to making sure the number one thing students should focus on is their learning.
Schools have returned to session and kids are back in their in-person class settings, so it’s important to consider the best ways to support both staff and students in their journey to make up for classroom time lost to virtual learning. The EPA recommends schools implement an IAQ plan to bolster environmental stability and help students maintain both health and focus; with remote indoor environmental monitoring solutions from Primex, administrators can fortify their IAQ management program and allow staff to primarily focus on teaching and students on learning.
When Primex OneVue solutions are in place, school staff and parents can have peace of mind knowing that their students are in a safe environment that promotes health and high levels of learning. A controlled environment is the foundation for the most successful performance on standardized tests, and therefore increases the chances of better support from federal funding efforts.