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Toolkit for school planners: Bolstering California public school resilience to wildfire health impacts

Two new reports could help decision-makers allocate resources to mitigate the health impacts of wildfire in public TK-12 schools.

Image credit: Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

With the recent enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and economic relief bills, tens of billions of dollars are now available for schools nationwide to modernize their infrastructure. As government officials and school planners grapple with decisions on resource allocation, these two reports aim to be an informational toolkit for decision-makers concerned about the impact of wildfire smoke on schoolchildren.

The first report lays the groundwork for a coordinated research project across school districts, including the installation of air quality monitors and standalone purifiers in TK-12 schools. The second report provides preliminary recommendations for statewide policy changes in California, encouraging upgrades that would offer protection from wildfire smoke while helping the state achieve its energy efficiency and decarbonization goals.

Learn more about the Climate and Energy Policy Program

In Pursuit of Clean Air: Laying the Groundwork for Public School Resilience to Wildfire Smoke

  1. Public schools increasingly need policies and infrastructure to protect students from more frequent and catastrophic wildfire smoke events.

  2. This report recommends standardizing and refining school air quality guidelines and offers suggestions for best practices to fund, install, and operate indoor air quality monitors in schools and communities.

  3. These measures would help lay the groundwork for future research that will provide a clearer picture of the air quality inside schools and classrooms during wildfire smoke events, which can further inform targeted policy interventions.

Download the report

Preparing TK-12 Schools for California’s Changing Climate: Health and Energy Considerations for Wildfire Smoke

  1. Protecting TK-12 students in California against the harmful air pollution from wildfire smoke and reducing energy consumption in the state's schools are compatible goals that are becoming all the more necessary in the state's rapidly changing climate.

  2. HVAC systems, with their capacity to move and filter large volumes of air and significant energy consumption, would ideally be the primary vehicle for reducing exposure to the particulates from wildfire smoke and improving energy efficiency. Portable HEPA filters can help supplement these systems or fill in gaps with relatively small energy requirements.

  3. Building on recent federal and state investments in indoor air quality infrastructure, the state of California could provide further funding – including for hiring and training the personnel necessary to operate these systems – to ensure that all TK-12 students have access to healthy indoor air during smoke events.

Download the report

Indoor Air Quality Decision Tree

HVAC Decision-making Tool for Schools

Illustrative Budget Tool for School Air Quality Monitoring

This budget tool is intended to provide an illustrative framework for estimating costs associated with an air quality monitor and/or air purifier installation intervention in a school. This budget does not feature purchase of additional air quality monitors to place in the homes of a sample of school students or in other public venues to assess air quality in areas other than the school itself (see Section 2d for relevant discussion). The numbers shown or design of this tool should in no way be construed as a recommendation for program design or cost. Basic assumptions are noted in the spreadsheet.

Editable version of this basic budget tool

Alternative link to an Excel spreadsheet

Relevant Programs and Funding Opportunities

  • The Bright Schools Program offers services to help identify the most cost-effective energy saving opportunities for schools. The California Energy Commission is helping implement measures that help schools save money.
  • The School Bus Replacement Program offers funds to replace old diesel school buses in disadvantaged and low-income communities throughout California. The California Energy Commission is helping schools embrace next-generation zero-emission vehicles and improve children’s health by reducing their exposure to transportation-related air pollution.
Resources to find federal and state funding
California Energy CommissionCalifornia Energy Commission ProgramsList of resources in the state of California for energy efficient building construction and retrofitting.

US Department of EnergyFederal and State ResourcesList of federal and state resources for energy efficient building upgrades.
 Renew America’s SchoolsResources for schools looking to increase energy efficiency, including grant opportunities.
US Environmental Protection AgencyAir Grants and FundingGrants and funding for air quality improvement projects, including for schools.
Grants.govGrant ProgramsFederal clearinghouse for all grants and loans available. Use search terms such as “energy efficient,” “indoor air quality,” and “school upgrades” to locate possible programs.


  • The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health brings together associations representing over 700,000 clinical practitioners, in partnership with public health experts and fellow health professionals, to successfully advocate for equitable climate solutions that protect and promote the health of all people.
  • The Climate Ready Schools Coalition is a group of education, climate, health, youth, and labor leaders began collaborating to share policy priorities and develop common state policy and budget asks in support of #ClimateReadySchools for California's most vulnerable students. A statewide coalition of nearly 50 experts – including Stanford scholars, doctors, medical and environmental health researchers, educators, youth and community groups – worked together to explore the challenges of climate change from the perspective of children’s health and education. Their insights and recommendations were published in Climate-Resilient California Schools: A Call to Action.

Lisa Patel is a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine. She is an expert on the connection between children's health and the climate.


Find additional Stanford wildfire experts available for media requests


Authors of the report are available to provide briefings and presentations for groups who wish to learn more. For more information, please contact:

Jessica Yu, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment,

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