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Columnist
Making schools greener likely to keep kids more healthy, too
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 3/21/2008 12:11 AM

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From all-natural cleaning products to organic foods and fuel-efficient cars, making healthy choices seems to permeate every aspect of our daily lives.

Even at school.

Mobile classrooms are now being tested for safety concerns, the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board revealed Monday.

The decision came after a Bartlett mother approached the board this month, suggesting the district's 96 temporary classrooms could be a source of noxious fumes, causing serious health effects.

Beverly Jaszczurowski, whose son is a kindergartner at Nature Ridge Elementary School in Bartlett, cited a Centers for Disease Control study released Feb. 14.

The study found higher-than-typical indoor levels of formaldehyde in travel trailers and mobile homes provided to displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Long-term exposure to these substances can be linked to an increased risk of cancer and respiratory illness, the study said.

Jaszczurowski suggested students attending class in mobiles for upward of six hours a day could suffer similar health effects to those in Katrina trailers.

Jeff King, the district's executive director of operations, told the board that results from the Nature Ridge tests should be completed by next week.

"This is definitely a great step," Jaszczurowski told the board. \

"I just want to make sure our kids have a safe learning environment," she said, describing herself as a "proactive environmentalist."

The board will wait to hear the results of those tests before deciding whether to test all of the district's mobile units, board President Ken Kaczynski said.

Testing for noxious fumes is one of many steps that can be taken to make schools healthier.

Visit www.healthyschools campaign.org, a Web site where officials and parents alike can find ideas for making schools healthy in all aspects. Suggestions for minimizing school-bus idling, promoting physical activity, making school buildings more energy-efficient and encouraging healthy eating habits are all there.

In this case, knowledge really is power.

Calling all kindergartners: Have a child who'll enroll in kindergarten next fall? Kindergarten orientation for the 2008-2009 school year in U-46 takes place April 2-24. Kids must be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1, 2008. A link to the list of dates for orientation at all elementary schools can be found on the district's Web site, www.u-46.org, or call the communications office at 847-888-5000, ext. 5040.

"Oklahoma!" Westminster Christian High School students will present the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!" next month.

In the well-loved tale about American history and romance, a couple of cowboys win the hearts of their Oklahoma territory sweethearts around 1900.

Performances will take place at the school, 2700 W. Highland Ave. at 7 p.m. April 18, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 19. Tickets are $6 per person or $25 per family at the door.