Air quality safeguards among proposed Montana school rules
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Health officials are considering requiring Montana schools to create plans for how they would make buildings airtight in the event of heavy wildfire smoke or other air hazards.
The state Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a series of rules, but the requirements addressing air quality have school officials questioning how compliance would work, the Billings Gazette reported Monday.
The rules include requirements for schools to regularly inspect air systems and to test water for lead. They also call for districts to formulate plans for sealing school buildings from the outside air.
“There really is no way you’re going to seal it 100%,” said Scott Reiter, facilities director of Billings Public Schools.
Shutting off fans and vents would reduce the flow of outside air into buildings, but it does not create a seal. To make a building airtight, it would require taping door gaps and window cracks, Reiter said.
“I just don’t see a bunch of people running around and taping up doors and windows,” Reiter said.
Education groups have critical of the proposed rules, saying the process was rushed and seeking for the department to clarify its expectations.
The department said several school groups had the chance to weigh in and it has considered the economic impact of the rules.
The proposed rules also call for school officials to check air quality before letting students outside for recess or other activities. The Billings school district already keeps students indoors if there is wildfire smoke, said Brenda Koch, district administrator.
“If there’s any worry about it, we do keep the kids inside,” Koch said.
The department is taking public comment until Sept. 16.
Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com