A new survey found that the vast majority of teachers (74%) nationwide are concerned about the indoor air quality in their schools and on buses, citing the negative impacts it has on the health and productivity of teachers, faculty, and students.
The survey of 1,000 teachers and school facility managers was conducted by Researchscape in early October 2022. The results highlight the growing importance teachers place on working in a healthy, safe, and clean environment.
Despite having federal government funding available, 87% of educators surveyed say they are alarmed that their school hasn’t done more to improve air quality. While 84% have made recent changes regarding air quality, such as installing air purifiers or new ventilation systems, only 31% say they have real-time air monitoring at their school. When it comes to making improvements in their schools, improving air quality (64%) ranked second only behind salaries (66%).
Disruptions and Absenteeism
This is the third school year since the start of the pandemic, yet 77% of respondents expressed a level of concern that their school will be disrupted by COVID-19 and 74% by Influenza A and other viral diseases. Eight out of ten (79%) believe better indoor air quality will help reduce chronic student absenteeism.
Half (50%) of respondents say their students are suffering from more allergies and asthma (32%) and are at greater risk of COVID transmission and other viruses as a result of poor air quality in school. Lack of focus (30%) and lower grades (20%), and test scores (13%) were also cited as downside impacts.
Unhealthy Work Environment
Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed say that poor air quality in their classrooms increases risks of respiratory illness, greater transmission of COVID infections (42%), and an increase in teacher sick days (35%). Overcrowded classrooms were a concern for 87% of respondents. Ninety percent of respondents say better indoor air quality will help improve their health and wellness.
Seven out of ten (69%) respondents say that their school faces a staffing shortage. The top reasons for staffing shortages include: low salaries (59%), early retirements (40%), and health and safety, specifically noting poor indoor air environment (31%), fear of getting COVID (32%), and impact of long COVID (29%).
“In an environment where schools across the country are grappling with teacher shortages and another year of potential disruptions, keeping our teachers and students healthy has to be a top priority,” says Roei Friedberg, CEO of Aura Air Americas, the company that commissioned the survey. “The fact that teachers see air quality just as important as teacher salaries is eye-opening. Schools have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take advantage of federal funding programs to upgrade their air quality systems and show teachers and students they take their health seriously.”