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Poor Air Quality in Schools May Interfere with Learning

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CLAYTON — Does your child have trouble staying awake in class? Or, maybe he or she can't stop wheezing. The culprit may be the air in their classroom.

According to a recent study, the air students breathe in many of the nation's elementary and middle schools is unsafe.

The federal government estimates one in five elementary and secondary schools in our area have poor indoor air quality.

The report fromOak Ridge National Labsays that may interfere with learning by causing headaches, drowsiness and a lack of concentration.

It raises the question, what are our schools doing to combat poor air quality?

Mary Kornegay says the students she had a few years ago were not as attentive as the ones she has now. Kornegay blames it on the building.

Cooper Elementary in Clayton dates back to the early 1950s. Up until three years ago, it had very poor ventilation.

"It was fans up at the end of the hallway and that was about it," says Kornegay. "And that's not really a ventilation system."

Cooper Elementary now has a $2 million, state-of-the-art ventilation system.

"I feel like we have a much better environment, as far as conducive to learning," says Kornegay.

The construction of new schools has also given Johnston County Schools the opportunity to have modern ventilation systems in nearly all of its schools.

But theAmerican Lung Associationsays that is the exception, rather than the rule.

"As many as half the schools in our state could suffer some type of a indoor air quality problem," says spokesperson Jeff Green.

And to people like Kornegay, that is a big problem.

She believes poor indoor air quality has not only affected her students, but also her teenage son, who has asthma.

"And I've kind of watched it as he's gone through school, and some of the older buildings especially, that didn't have ventilation, we could see a difference," she says.

Right now, local health departments inspect our public schools at least once a year. But many do not specifically look for poor indoor air quality.

State health administrators are working on new rules that will require annual inspections that include air quality checks.