Letter, Uncategorized

School buildings impact student health and success

Dear Editor,

We are community members who work locally to provide medical care for the entire range of our population from newborn babies to seniors in their 90s and 100s. We feel privileged to work in and for the greater Woodstock community. We’d like to share our perspective on the proposed new middle and high school building and why this project is important to the health and vitality of our community.

A large body of research demonstrates that the condition and design of a school building influences student health and learning as much as any other factor at school. A school building is not just bricks and mortar, it is one of the most crucial ingredients to a student’s ability to access their education and a teacher’s ability to deliver this education.

The proposed new school project focuses on providing a healthier and safer building for our students and teachers. This is important for all children but especially important for those students with anxiety, depression, asthma, allergies, hearing impairment, ADHD, learning disabilities and for those with physical disabilities. We outline below how the new building will provide a healthier learning environment:

1) Safety—The new design includes a floor plan with pods, angles, and the ability to shut off sections from each other. This helps to protect children and faculty in the event of an intruder and from other hazardous events. The new design meets today’s safety standards, the current facility cannot be renovated to meet these standards.

2) Noise reduction—the current building’s outdated building materials, mechanical systems, and retrofitted systems create a very high level of ambient noise. These noise levels make it difficult for communication, comprehension, concentration, and memorization and reduce students’ ability to learn.

3) Daylight—The current building lacks adequate daylight, which impairs vision, mental health and concentration. Students who are exposed to more daylight in school have improved mood, less fatigue, less eye strain, fewer headaches, and improved sleep. Schools today are therefore designed with many windows. The orientation of the new building is designed to capture the arch of the sun and provide southern exposure to increase daylight. To cut costs of the new school, the building committee has already removed 25% of the windows originally proposed.

4) Thermal regulation—The current HVAC system and retrofits cause huge fluctuations and variability in temperatures throughout the building. Temperature fluctuations are linked to decreased focus for teachers and decreased student achievement and processing speed, lower test scores and poorer overall cognition. Even with improvements, our current school’s building envelope does not allow for reliable thermal regulation. The new building will provide a controlled thermal environment and improve students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach.

5) Ventilation—The current building has a lack of adequate ventilation. This causes increased levels of common indoor pollutants which causes increased symptoms of asthma, allergies, headaches, nausea, and increased viral transmission rates. Poor  ventilation in schools causes an increase in absenteeism in teachers and students. The new school will help to reduce these common health concerns.

6) ADA accessibility – The current building is not up to code and does not meet today’s accessibility requirements, making it inadequate for students, faculty, and visitors with disabilities. The new building will be accessible to all.

It is clear based on a large body of medical literature that up to date school facilities lead to improved mental health, physical health, and increased productivity for children and faculty. Furthermore, the new school building will help to support and retain the families who live and work here, including those who work in fields that provide care for our community.

The Mountain View School District’s children deserve to spend their six years of middle and high school (one third of their childhood years) in a facility that meets current health, safety, educational, and accessibility standards.

We are impressed with the diligence of the school board and community members who have worked tirelessly over the past seven years, thoroughly evaluating many different options, including renovating the current facility, to make sure that taxpayers are presented with the best possible solution to our middle and high school’s failing infrastructure. The proposed new school building offers the most effective and cost efficient solution to meet today’s school health, safety, and educational standards.

Please join us in voting “Yes” to the new school building, and supporting our children and community!

Dr. Lorissa Segal, Barnard; Dr. Clare Drebitko, Woodstock; Dr. Alan Frascoia, Woodstock

One comment on “School buildings impact student health and success

  1. Given the high rate of academic success at the current school building I would suggest “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. To quote from Polly Mikula’s op ed of Jan 24.,, ”
    The quality of education and offerings are strong across the district, with Woodstock middle school/high school ranking No. 3 out of all Vermont high schools, according to the 2023-24 U.S. News and World Report rankings. Additionally, the report notes that the AP participation rate at Woodstock Union Middle/High School is 73%. It’s also the No. 1 school in the state for college curriculum breadth and No. 2 for college readiness.”
    Those 73% AP participants are essentially getting college credits if they pass. That’s saying something about the quality of the school and the focus of the students.

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