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Healthy and Supportive School Environments


A well-lighted, comfortable classroom is essential for effective instruction. The California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (Title 5), Section 14030(l) specifies that schools should have lighting that provides "comfortable and adequate visual conditions." Title 5, Section 14030(m) states that a school's acoustic design "shall complement the educational function." Also, a comfortable thermal condition is essential in creating a supportive learning environment.

Although no state laws establish lighting and acoustical standards, professional standards do exist and should be considered in the design of schools. The following resources are available with recommended standards for thermal, visual, and acoustical comfort within the classroom:

Illuminating Engineering Society of North America

The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) External link opens in new window or tab. determines comfortable illumination standards. An Electornic version for the IESNA handbook entitled IESNA Lighting Handbook External link opens in new window or tab. may be purchased.

American National Standards Institute

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) External link opens in new window or tab. oversees the creation, promulgation, and use of thousands of norms and guidelines that directly impact businesses in nearly every sector: from acoustical devices to construction equipment, to energy distribution. The ANSI/ASA 12.60 document, which makes recommendation for acoustic standards for classrooms, may be purchased from the ANSI Web site.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS)

Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) External link opens in new window or tab. has resources for creating and maintaining high performance schools. Publications and resources such as its Best Practices Manuals, Volumes 1-4, a list of low-emitting products, and sample specifications for high performance portable classrooms, to name a few, can be found on their Web site. This organization also provides training on the principles in their best practices manuals.

Health and Sanitation Code Requirements - Code Compliance Responsibility

The California Department of Education (CDE) frequently receives questions from the public concerning healthy and safety issues at California public schools. Information has been put together in order to identify who is responsible for the enforcement of building codes and other codes that aply to health, sanitation, and safety on school sites.

Indoor Air Quality

A free download regarding a brief description of school facility concerns about indoor air quality can be found at the California Department of Education's Web site. It is a simplified discussion of problems that can affect the health of both staff and students and includes a list of management procedures that can be used to help mitigate problems of unclean air.

School Assessment

There are several tools available for schools to use in assessing the condition of schools.

Health School Environment Assessment Tool (HSEAT)

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has developed Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool External link opens in new window or tab. , a powerful, customizable and free software tool to help districts evaluate and manage facilities for key environmental, safety, and health issues.

Facility Inspection Tool

The Facility Inspection Tool External link opens in new window or tab. was developed by the Office of Public School Construction for districts to use in determining if a school is in "good repair."

Districts should confer with their design professional in using these or other guidance when designing or modernizing schools.

Questions:   Diane Waters | dwaters@cde.ca.gov | 916-327-2884
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