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Boston Public School Collaborative for Green Cleaning

Project Details

Year: 2001
Location: Boston Latin Academy and English High School
Project Manager: Lt. Richard Parker
Partners: Boston Public Schools, Boston Fire Department, Boston Police Department.

The goal of the Boston Public Schools and the City of Boston Local Emergency Planning Committee Toxic Use Reduction collaboration was to develop a prototype program to reduce and maintain restricted minimal use of toxic chemicals in two Boston Public Schools, one middle school and one high school. To accomplish this, a central team consisting of the City of Boston Local Emergency Planning Committee, Fire Department and the Boston Public Schools worked with a team from the two schools. The school teams consisted of one administrator and three teachers. The school teams worked with the central team to:

  1. Develop a plan to educate the staff of the dangers of toxic chemical in their schools.
  2. Assay the schools toxic chemicals and arrange for their removal through the Boston public Schools Safety Office.
  3. Develop and ongoing plan which encompasses both operational aspects and curricular aspects of toxic chemical use.

The two schools, Boston Latin Academy and English High School, were selected through and application process.

Project Accomplishments:

  • Removal/reduction of unwanted or old chemicals from storage areas in both schools.
  • Greater awareness of toxic use reduction for the schools' entire staff.
  • Establishment of a team in each school headed by a school administrator and three teachers. The team will be responsible for Toxic Use Reduction part of the safety plan for their individual school.
  • Ongoing thermometer reduction throughout the Boston Public School system.
  • Better lines of communication between all the agencies involved especially between the schools and the public safety agencies.
  • Each school has completed chemical inventories.
  • Boston Latin Academy has adopted a computer dissection program and has offered training to the whole school system.
  • In response to the walk around, Boston English High School installed a safety cage for their chemical area.
  • Both Boston Latin Academy and Boston English High School have purchased equipment with grant funds.

Future ActivitiesSafety Awareness

  • Ongoing Toxic Use Reduction awareness seminars will be conducted during the school year as described in the school reports by the teams at each school.
  • The school safety plan will be reviewed and updated on a yearly basis by the school administrators and the Fire Safety Director with increased attention paid to toxic use reduction and hazardous materials storage and disposal.
  • Public Safety agencies (Fire Department, Police Department, Office of Environmental Health etc.) will be invited to talk to school staff about past incidents or recent problems.
  • The Toxic Use Reduction team will attend the cluster meetings of school principals in order to increase awareness of Toxic Use Reduction in the schools.
  • second round of school walk arounds will occur after the initial chemical removal is done.
  • Part of the plan for next year is intensive training for science teachers in every school and designation of a science administrator in every school.
  • New software was developed that has the MSDS's for products found in all the schools on the schools' Intranet.

Improved Communication

  • The team will promote the protocol for notifying public agencies about incidents, which involve the threat of release or release of chemicals/hazardous materials at the schools.
  • The school teams will educate the school staff about how to initiate the notification process.

Lab Safety Institute Registration

  • Five teachers from the team will be sent to the Lab Safety Institute at Northeastern University in July.

Mercury Thermometer Collections

  • Some schools continue to find Mercury thermometers, which are no longer allowed in the schools.
  • Collections will continue in order to reduce the number of mercury thermometers still in the schools.
  • Replacement thermometers are available for the schools.

Classroom Innovations

  • The Science Department has implemented Micro-scale Chemistry into the schools.
  • Boston Latin Academy has purchased with funds from the TURN Grant video dissection curriculum.


  • The Science Department, through their vendor Sargent Welch, has developed a common ordering system.
  • The team will recommend to the School Department's Purchasing Office that approved vendor lists with less toxic substances be developed for the department.

Custodial Innovations

  • A Pilot Program at Boston Latin Academy is underway involving premixed cleaning supplies that are replenished on an as need basis.
  • This summer there will be peer training for custodians for cleaning and stripping floors safely in the schools.

Project BarriersScheduling

  • This can be difficult considering the number of different public agencies involved. The Public Safety Agencies (Fire, Police, and BPS Safety Office) are on call to respond to emergencies. Teachers can meet after school hours, on days when they can be substituted for or professional days. Along with these conflicts is the regular everyday business of each agency, which can sometimes supercede other business.
  • The Boston High School walk around was an example of a scheduling conflict. Team members from the Fire and Police Department were unable to attend because of a Hazardous Materials incident in the City. The walk around continued as scheduled and was completed by members of the team and with the help of Hilary Eustace of the State's Office of Technical Assistance.
  • This proved to be an obstacle but with the cooperation of each agency it was overcome. It could have been a problem if the agencies did not work well together.

Personnel Turnover in the Boston Public Schools

  • This is a concern of the team since teacher retirement is expected to be very high within the next few years. The hiring of new teachers could be detrimental to the Pilot Program if it is not properly institutionalized in each of the schools.
  • The team expects that each school team of teachers will be able to implement the Toxic Use Reduction program within their own individual school and make it part of their safety plan.
  • The team will also present their Toxic Use Reduction recommendations to the School Administration with hopes that it will be implemented in more schools in the future.
  • New teachers will be introduced to the Toxic Use Reduction program each year and it will be part of school procedure.

Technical Expertise

  • Although the team does have very knowledgeable people from the public safety and education fields, it was important to have someone familiar with toxic use reduction programs in schools to help guide us through this project.
  • Hilary Eustace from the Office of Technical Assistance provided much help with the Team Training Day and the school walk arounds. She provided the team with her expertise in reducing toxic chemicals in schools and information for the schools about safer chemicals and micro-scale chemistry.

Multi-Agency Team

  • One concern that may develop between a multi-agency team is a lack of trust between the groups.
  • The Fire and Police Departments did not participate in this program to "go after" the School Department. This was a joint effort to make the schools safer for the administration, teachers, staff and students of the school and for the First Responders who respond to incidents at the schools.
  • The team worked very well together so this concern did not turn into an obstacle.

Incident Notification for Fire and Police Department

  • There has been an ongoing concern that school staff is unclear when and who to notify during certain hazardous material incidents.
  • This issue will be addressed through school awareness (i.e. the safety plan that each school team will develop) and notification protocols that have been developed.


This page updated Monday July 23 2018