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Denver Schools Implement New Program To Monitor Air Quality

DENVER (CBS4) – When the 2019-20 school year kicks off, administrators, parents, and students at number of Denver schools will have the ability to check the nearby air quality. The data will be available in real time so everyone can make better health decisions.

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Each of the sensors are at Swansea Elementary School this week so workers can calibrate them. They'll be installed at the nine campuses and eleven schools by Friday.

The program is funded by a $1 million Bloomberg Mayors Challenge grant awarded to the city. The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment shaped the program and reached out to schools based on reduced lunch rates and asthma rates.

"Kids within Denver Public Schools have a higher-than-average asthma rate which results in long term economic as well as health impacts," said Michael Ogletree, air quality program manager with DDPHE.

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The schools participating in the three-year program are Swansea Elementary School, Garden Place Academy, Sabin World School, Gust Elementary School, University Prep-Steele Street, South High, Bruce Randolph M&H, Northeast Early (formerly High Tech), and PREP Academy M&H.

According to Ogletree, PREP Academy is among the 10 DPS schools with the highest asthma rate.

"Academic performance is impacted by attendance. One of the main drivers for lower attendance is asthma, Ogletree said. "So, by addressing asthma rates, we can then influence attendance rates as well as academic achievement."

Air Quality Dashboard
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The sensors monitor PM2.5 - a pollutant with long term health effects for children. Starting Monday, parents, administrators, and students will be able to monitor the levels online, in real time, outside and inside the schools.

The dashboards are expected to be live at the beginning of the school year.

"So, as you're walking through the hallways, you can take a look at these dashboards and say, 'Hey, air quality isn't the best today. Maybe I can make changes about how I'm going to use my outside time,'" Ogletree explained.

Eventually, the data could influence school policies, such as limiting recess time outside on days with poor air quality. Officials could also push to have road projects limited to summer months when located near a school.

According to Ogletree, some schools have been hesitant to join the program -- partly because it's such a new technology.

The sensors will likely be located near pick-up and drop-off lanes at the participating schools. They will be connected to solar panels and be painted to match the school.

DDPHE plans to install 10 additional sensors around the district by the end of the school year. The goal is to install 40 in 40 schools by 2021.

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