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Associations Between Classroom

CO2 Concentrations and Student

Attendance in Washington and Idaho
Our Mission
To advance
environmental and economic
well-being by providing
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products, education and
information based on
world-class research. By Derek G. Shendell, William J. Fisk, Michael G. Apte, and David Faulkner, Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Indoor
Environment Department, Berkeley, CA;
Richard Prill, Washington State University Energy Program, Spokane, WA; and
Our staff of approximately 100
David Blake, Northwest Air Pollution Authority, Mount Vernon, WA
people (energy engineers, energy
specialists, technical experts, soft-
Submitted for publication in Indoor Air (LBNL-54413)
ware developers, energy research
librarians and more) works out of January 30, 2004
our Olympia, Spokane and other Please address correspondence to: William J. Fisk, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
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to a consulting firm, the
Washington State University
(WSU) Extension Energy Program
Student attendance in American public schools is a critical factor in
is a self-supported department
securing limited operational funding. Student and teacher attendance
within the University.
influence academic performance. Limited data exist on indoor air and
environmental quality (IEQ) in schools, and how IEQ affects attendance,
Our customers include large
health, or performance. This study explored the association of student
and small businesses, public and absence with measures of indoor minus outdoor carbon dioxide con-
private utilities, local and state centration (dCO2). Absence and dCO2 data were collected from 409
governments, tribes, federal traditional and 25 portable classrooms from 22 schools located in six
agencies and facilities, school districts in the states of Washington and Idaho. Study classrooms
manufacturing plants, professional had individual heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) sys-
and trade associations, schools, tems, except two classrooms without mechanical ventilation. Classroom
universities, national laboratories, attributes, student attendance and school-level ethnicity, gender, and
and consumers. For more socioeconomic status (SES) were included in multivariate modeling.
information, visit our website at Forty-five percent of classrooms studied had short-term indoor CO2 con- centrations above 1000 parts-per-million (ppm). A 1000 ppm increase in
dCO2 was associated (p < 0.05) with a 0.5% to 0.9% decrease in annual
average daily attendance (ADA), indoor temperature and humidity, outdoor concentrations due to the
corresponding to a relative 10% to concentrations of chemical and metabolic production of CO2 by
20% increase in student absence. microbiological pollutants, and building occupants. For example,
Annual ADA was 2% higher (p < amount of daylight (Pepler, 1968; for adult office workers, assum-
0.0001) in traditional than in Green, 1974, 1985; Norback et al., ing a ventilation rate of 7.5 L s-1
portable classrooms. 1990; Ruotsalainen et al., 1995; per person and a typical outdoor
Myhrvold et al., 1996; Myhrvold CO2 concentration of 350-400
Practical Implications and Olsen, 1997; Smedje et al., parts-per-million (ppm), a steady
This study provides motivation for 1997; Walinder et al., 1997a, state indoor CO2 concentration
larger school studies to investigate 1997b, 1998; Meyer et al., 1999; of 1000 ppm has been used as
associations of student attendance, Ahman et al., 2000; Smedje and an informal dividing line between
and occupant health and student Norback, 2000, Kim et al., 2002; “adequate” and “inadequate”
performance, with longer term Sahlberg et al., 2002; Heschong ventilation (ASHRAE, 2001). How-
indoor minus outdoor carbon 2002). Some, but certainly not all, ever, a CO2 concentration is only
dioxide concentrations and more studies have found measured IEQ a rough surrogate for ventilation
accurately measured ventilation parameters were associated with rate, primarily because the mea-
rates. If our findings are confirmed, health, performance, or absence. sured concentration is often con-
improving classroom ventilation siderably less than the steady state
should be considered a practi- Total ventilation, a combination concentration. Despite the limita-
cal means of reducing student of unintentional air infiltration tions of CO2 concentrations as a
absence. Adequate or enhanced through the building envelope, measure of ventilation rate, higher
ventilation may be achieved, for natural ventilation through open concentrations have been associ-
example, with educational train- doors and windows, and mechani- ated with increased frequency of
ing programs for teachers and cal ventilation, provides a means health symptoms and increased
facilities staff on ventilation system for reducing indoor concentrations absence in studies of office work-
operation and maintenance. Also, of indoor-generated air pollutants. ers (Erdmann et al., 2002; Milton
technological interventions such Ventilation standard 62 developed et. al 2000). Available data have
as improved automated control by ASHRAE (2001) specifies a indicated many classrooms with
systems could provide continuous minimum ventilation rate of 7.5 L ventilation rates below the code
ventilation during occupied times, s-1 (15 ft3 min-1) per occupant for minimum or with CO2 concen-
regardless of occupant thermal classrooms. Ceiling- or wall-mount- trations above 1000 ppm (e.g.,
comfort demands. ed heating, ventilation and air Lagus Applied Technologies, 1995;
conditioning (HVAC) systems are Carrer et. al, 2002; Daisey et al.,
often used to mechanically ven- 2003; RTI, 2003; Shendell et al.,
Keywords tilate classrooms, although these 2003a). Therefore, the extent to
carbon dioxide, schools, children,
HVAC systems may provide less which lower ventilation rates affect
ventilation, attendance
ventilation than intended due to student health, absence, and per-
design and installation problems, formance is of particular interest.
Introduction poor maintenance, and because In general, school absenteeism can
Existing information on the rela- HVAC systems are often not serve as an indicator of the student
tionships between indoor air and operated continuously during or teacher’s overall health condi-
environmental quality (IEQ) in occupancy. tion, although attendance patterns
classrooms and student absence, result from a complex interaction
health, or academic performance is Since measuring the actual venti- of many factors (Weitzman, 1986;
limited and has been reviewed by lation rate is expensive and po- Alberg et al., 2003).
Heath and Mendell (2002) and tentially problematic, the indoor
Daisey et al. (2003). There have concentration of carbon dioxide This paper presents the results of
been a few studies of the associa- (CO2) has often been used as a a study which expanded the work
tions of student health, and to a surrogate for the ventilation rate of Prill et al. (2002), who reported
lesser extent student absence or per occupant, including in schools findings from rapid IEQ assessment
learning, with types of ventila- (e.g., Lee and Chang, 1999). surveys in public schools, includ-
tion system, ventilation rates, Indoor CO2 concentrations exceed ing short-term CO2 measurements

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 2
in the indoor air, outdoor air, and classrooms and classrooms with according to manufacturer specifi-
HVAC supply air diffuser. The pres- unvented space heaters for perma- cations using “zero” (N2, 99.99%
ent study’s hypothesis explored if nent heating systems. The goal of pure) and “span” (2010 ppm
higher indoor minus outdoor CO2 the selection criteria and exclusion CO2, +/- 2%) gases. Instruments
concentrations (dCO2) were as- policy was to ensure, to the extent were also cross-compared during
sociated with increased student possible, the classrooms including short-term (< five-minute average)
absence. attic spaces were physically sepa- outdoor air CO2 measurements at
rated, with each served by their each school at locations distant
Methodology own mechanical HVAC system, from potential CO2 sources.
and the environmental measure-
Recruitment of classrooms ments conducted in each class- Attendance data
Primary and secondary schools in room were independent observa- Attendance data were collected
the states of Washington (WA) and tions. The final study sample, after from school administrative staff
Idaho (ID) were approached in the some schools could not participate who allowed field technicians ac-
2000-01 and 2001-02 school years because they lacked appropri- cess to school attendance records
to participate in the Washington ate attendance data records, and to enter data into a pre-formatted
State University (WSU) and the given available resources, consisted spreadsheet program. For seven
Northwest Air Pollution Authority of 436 classrooms from 22 schools schools of one SD, the enrollment
(NWAPA) “3 Step IEQ Program,” (14 in WA, 8 in ID) in 6 SD (4 in and attendance of each individual
a streamlined approach for imple- WA, 2 in ID). student on each school day was
menting the U.S. EPA’s “Tools recorded. For schools in every
for Schools” program (Prill et al., IEQ Assessments and CO2 other SD, we recorded the number
2002). These schools had attended measurements of students enrolled, the number
IEQ workshops conducted by WSU The IEQ assessments performed absent, and the number in at-
or NWAPA, had contacted WSU in every classroom consisted of tendance for each classroom and
or NWAPA for IEQ assistance, or walk-through surveys conducted school day. The daily percentages
were recommended to WSU and by a technician together with of students in attendance were
NWAPA by other participant school relevant facilities and administra- calculated by pre-coded formulae.
districts (SDs). To select our sample tive staff, and short-term mea- Attendance data received a quality
of schools from this group of K-12 surements of CO2 during school control review by LBNL after WSU
schools (n=224), we used a two- hours (Prill et al. 2002). CO2 field technicians sent computer
step process. First, we only consid- measurements were conducted files. This process verified “0” or
ered primary schools serving K-5 by WSU field technicians using “blank” (student present) or “1”
or K-6 (n=134), excluding special the Q-TRAK Model 8551 instru- (student absent) was entered into
education and day care buildings. ment (TSI, Inc., Shoreview, MN, every cell, vacation periods were
Second, due to limited resources USA). Inside each classroom, two left blank, file name room num-
and travel logistics, we focused on: short-term measurements, each ber and grade level designations
1) schools in cities or SDs with the no more than a five-minute aver- matched those on the worksheet,
most primary schools; 2) schools age, were conducted sequentially and changes in enrollment dur-
where the majority of classrooms and the measurement times were ing the school year were noted
were served by individual HVAC recorded. First, indoor air CO2 was with gray-shaded cells. The aver-
systems (or none if just wall heat- assessed near the center of the age daily attendance (number of
ers were used); and, 3) schools classroom at the breathing zone students attending class divided
from which daily attendance height of seated students, but at by number of students enrolled,
data, at the student or classroom least one meter from students and then converted to a percentage)
level, were available. Individual not directly underneath the sup- was calculated for the entire school
HVAC systems included wall- and ply air diffusers. Second, the CO2 year and is denoted by “annual
ceiling-mounted unit ventilators concentration in the HVAC supply ADA” or “yearly ADA.” In addition,
or heat pumps for heating and/ air was measured using a capture the same parameter was calculated
or air conditioning. We excluded hood to direct undiluted supply for the portion of the school year
classrooms in buildings where air into the instrument sensor. CO2 prior to the IEQ inspection and is
one HVAC system served multiple instruments were calibrated weekly denoted “pre-visit ADA” or “pre-

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 3
visit attendance.” Although the CO2 metric els (ANOVA, PROC GLM). Models
pre-visit ADA was based on less Based on the measured CO2 data, were developed for annual ADA,
data than the annual ADA, it was we computed the difference pre-visit ADA, and annual average
also not affected by any post- between the measured indoor absence as dependent variables.
inspection ventilation rate changes and outdoor CO2 concentrations Independent variables in the final
motivated by recommendations (dCO2). Previous research on models were: 1) dCO2, as a con-
of the inspectors. Annual average CO2 in school classrooms (Fox et tinuous variable; 2) the composite
absence was calculated as unity al., 2003) demonstrated a single percentage of students at a school
minus annual ADA. monitoring location was appropri- participating in subsidized free and
ate for characterizing such indoor reduced-cost lunch programs as
Demographic and Socio- contaminant levels when HVAC an indicator of student and fam-
economic Variables systems were on, i.e., air was ily SES; 3) grade level; 4) type of
Aggregate data were collected on well-mixed. The dCO2 is only a classroom – traditional or portable;
demographic and socio-economic rough surrogate for ventilation rate 5) the state in which the classroom
variables that could influence because it is based on one-time was located; and 6) the percent-
student absence and, thus, con- short-term measurements made at ages of Hispanic and/or White/
found the study findings. These a wide range of times throughout Caucasian students in the school as
data were obtained for the 2001- the school day. The major advan- indicators of ethnic composition.
02 school year or based on the tage of dCO2, relative to a ventila- Ideally, since multivariate linear
2000 national census data avail- tion rate estimate, is dCO2 does regression requires observations to
able from several public electronic not rely on any other assumptions. be independent, data on the SES
resources*. Ferris et al. (1988) We made a thorough attempt to indicator variable and the race/
reported data on gender and age use the measured indoor CO2 con- ethnicity variable at the classroom
(grades) helped explain observed centration and measurement time level instead of at the school level
variance in absenteeism. Haines et data to estimate the total ventila- would have been preferred. This
al. (2002) found the percentage tion rate, the flow rate of outside unavoidable limitation of the
of students in a grade level eli- air into the classroom on the day study’s database was due to both
gible for subsidized (free) meals at of the CO2 measurement prior to the retrospective nature of atten-
school was related to the average the measurement, by applying the dance and potential confounder
socio-economic status (SES) of the transient mass balance equation. data collection and, more impor-
school enrollment in that grade. This approach, however, required tantly, the reality that participant
We collected data, at the school several assumptions to be made, SDs only release these types of
level, on gender and ethnicity including for the calculation of the demographic data for public use at
(five categories). We also collected student indoor CO2 generation the school level due to confiden-
school-level data on percent par- rate, which varied by age (grade) tiality issues and political sensitivi-
ticipation in subsidized free lunch and activity level. For details and ties. Nevertheless, visits to the SDs
programs, reduced-cost lunch related results, readers are referred suggested variability within schools
programs, and the composite of to this study’s final report available was much less than between
the free and reduced-cost lunch to the public through LBNL (Shen- schools for these two potential
programs; the composite was used dell et al., 2003c). confounder variables.
as an indicator of student SES.
Multivariate Analyses Depending on the terms in the
* ID Department of Education (http://www. The data were analyzed with SAS model, certain data were excluded; WA Office of the Superin-
software (Enterprise Guide version because the values of one or more
tendent for Public Instruction (http://www., 1.3 and SAS system release 8.2, input parameters were missing.
OSPI Programs child nutrition, data SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Descrip- The two classrooms in WA with
administration, demographics, statistics); tive statistics were calculated and no mechanical HVAC system and
National Center for Educational Statistics the associations of independent the five classrooms with students
variables with student attendance in more than one grade level were
or absence were determined using excluded.
multivariate linear regression mod-

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 4
Results for “yearly” and “pre-visit” ADA, Table 4 (page 13) presents descrip-
which were similar, were higher tive statistics for dCO2 by state,
Descriptive Statistics in traditional than portable class- grade level (age), and room type.
The average primary school was rooms, slightly higher in ID than Across grades, average dCO2 val-
about 45 years old and most WA traditional classrooms, and ues were higher for traditional than
(94%) classrooms were in the higher in WA than ID portable portable classrooms in WA except
main building, i.e., traditional, classrooms. for grade four, in part due to the
not portables. There was a fairly small sample size of portables.
equal distribution of classrooms Table 3 (page 12) summarizes In ID, average dCO2 values were
visited across the seven grades descriptive statistics for selected higher in portable than tradi-
except 6th grade classrooms were short-term CO2 measures and tional classrooms across grades,
visited relatively less often be- attendance data by state, room and median dCO2 values were
cause many primary schools in our type, and school to provide insight similar across grades 1-6, which
study only included K-5th grades into within-school versus between- were higher than for kindergarten
(Table 1, see page 10). Visits to school variability. Within-school classrooms. In WA traditional class-
study classrooms were fairly well variability was evaluated by exam- rooms, median dCO2 values in-
distributed throughout the school ining the standard deviations and creased from kindergarten through
day, although the least number of ranges (minimum-maximum) of grade six, except for a decrease at
visits occurred during unoccupied measured values. Between-school grade five. Across states and room
periods (Table 1). Overall, about variability was evaluated by com- types, except in WA grade 1 and
19 of every 20 classrooms in this paring the average and median grade 2-3 traditional classrooms
study were found with the HVAC values, and the ranges of measured and in WA portables for kinder-
system on or cycling automatically values. The study data suggested garten and grades 2 and 3, where
between on or off. About nine of considerable variability within there were usually small sample
every 10 classrooms visited were most schools across states and sizes, maximum dCO2 values were
found with windows to the outside room types, especially in ID, where greater than 1000 ppm.
closed. In this study, 45% of visited ranges of dCO2 values were gener-
classrooms had measured short- ally higher. Across states among Furthermore, dCO2 and short-term
term indoor CO2 concentrations traditional classrooms, and WA indoor CO2 measurements in ID
above 1000 ppm (59% in ID and portables, the data again suggest- grade two portables were always
35% in WA). Across states, grades, ed variability in dCO2 values. For above 1000 ppm. Overall, these
and room types, the geometric ID portables, the average and me- observations on Table 4 were likely
mean annual absence was 5% dian values were similar between in part related to occupant densi-
(median 4.9%, arithmetic mean schools, though minimum and ties and the ages of students as
5.2%); the mean and median maximum values differed, likely related to CO2 generation rates
annual ADA were 95%. due to small sample sizes (two (Shendell et al., 2003c), given
schools, 3-4 classrooms at each). WSU visits were spread across
Table 2 (page 11) presents descrip- Across states and room types, the grades and school day hours (Table
tive statistics for dCO2 and ADA data suggested variability in an- 1). Uncertainty included opera-
by state and room type. In ID, the nual ADA between schools since tions and maintenance practices
average, median, minimum, and the ranges of average and median at participating schools. Finally, by
estimated 90th percentile dCO2 values, which were similar, were state, grade, and room type, vari-
values were higher in portable 2-4%. Idaho portables showed ability in attendance and absence
than traditional classrooms. In relatively more variability between data (not presented) was observed
WA, average dCO2 was slightly schools, which again may be due as expected due to multiple factors
higher and maximum and esti- to small sample sizes. Across states such as susceptibility to illness by
mated 90th percentile values were and room types, the data also sug- age, climatic conditions by season,
higher in portable than traditional gested variability in annual ADA sample sizes, and factors related to
classrooms; however, the median within most schools, and relatively absence not assessed in this study.
and minimum values were higher more so in WA than in ID among
in traditional than portable class- traditional classrooms.
rooms. Average and median values

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 5
Results of Multivariate dance and the corresponding from using short-term CO2 as a
Analyses parameter estimate was unstable measure of long-term average ven-
The primary results of the multi- (results not included in Table 5). tilation rate, will tend to obscure
variate modeling are provided in The most likely explanation for and weaken associations with the
Table 5 (page 14). The final mod- these findings was the present dependent variable (in this case,
els included the most important study only included two states. attendance or absence).
variables, which were entered into
the model at once (not stepwise), Discussion We are not aware of large uncon-
after examination of possible cor- In this study, 1000 ppm increases trolled sources of bias likely to
relation between specific indepen- in the difference between indoor create erroneous associations of
dent variables. The dCO2 variable and outdoor CO2 concentrations higher dCO2 concentrations with
was statistically significantly (p < were associated with 10% to 20% increased absence. The models
0.05) associated with both the relative increases in student ab- contain variables controlling for
annual ADA and with the pre-visit sence, and the associations were SES, classroom type, grade level,
ADA. For annual ADA, the param- statistically significant. These ethnic composition, and the State
eter estimate indicated a 0.5% findings of this study are generally in which the classrooms are lo-
absolute decrease in attendance, consistent with those of Milton cated. Thus, we have controlled
corresponding to a 10% relative et al. (2000), who found a 50% as well as possible, given data
increase in the average 5% ab- reduction in ventilation rates in of- resources available to the American
sence rate, per 1000 ppm increase fices, with corresponding increases public, for obvious sources of con-
in dCO2. For the pre-visit ADA, the in indoor CO2 concentrations, was founding bias. However, it is still
parameter estimate indicated a associated with a 50% increase in possible some unknown classroom
0.9% absolute decrease in atten- short term absence among the of- factor, which increases absence
dance, corresponding to a relative fice workers occupying the build- rates, is positively correlated with
20% percent increase in the aver- ings. One potential explanation for the measured classroom CO2 con-
age 5% absence rate, per 1000 our findings and those of Milton et centrations.
ppm increase in dCO2. al. (2000) is lower rates of venti-
lation, indicated by higher CO2, This study confirms previous find-
The traditional classroom type, caused increased communicable ings of high CO2 concentrations
relative to a portable classroom, respiratory illnesses, probably by in classrooms, which indicated
was associated with approximately increasing the indoor concentra- classroom ventilation rates were
a 2% increase in attendance, and tion of airborne infectious particles often below the minimum rates
with a 2.5% decrease in absence. produced during coughing or specified in codes. In this study,
In each case, the associations were sneezing. In a review of the litera- almost half of the CO2 concentra-
statistically significant (p < 0.01). ture, Fisk (2000) summarized three tions were above 1000 ppm and
studies reporting a reduction in 4.5% were above 2000 ppm. If
A one percent increase in the SES ventilation rate was associated with the measured CO2 concentrations
variable, representing the percent- increases in confirmed respiratory had been maximum or steady
age of students receiving free or illness. state values, a substantially larger
reduced cost lunch, was associ- proportion would be expected to
ated (p < 0.001) with a 0.03% to Because the CO2 measurements in exceed 1000 ppm. Thus, it is likely
0.04% decrease in attendance, and this study were short-term, five- more than half of the classrooms in
with a 0.02% increase in absence minute, measurements made on a this study had ventilation rates less
(p < 0.001). A one percent increase single school day at variable times than specified in current minimum
in the percent of Hispanic students of day, they should be considered ventilation standards.
was associated (p < 0.02) with a only rough surrogates for the long-
0.03% increase in attendance, and term average classroom ventilation The substantially higher rate of
with 0.05% decrease in absence (p rates that may affect long-term absence in portable classrooms,
< 0.001). average absence rates. In general,
** Errors that are not correlated
random errors** in an independent
In most models, the state variable with the value of the dependent
variable, in this case the errors varialbe.
was not associated with atten-

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 6
relative to traditional classrooms, concentration above the out- This report was prepared as a result
is notable. We do not have a clear door concentration was of work sponsored by the Califor-
explanation for this finding. It is associated (p < 0.05) with nia Energy Commission (Commis-
not known whether portable class- a 0.5% to 0.9% decrease in sion) and the University of Califor-
rooms have inferior IEQ relative yearly attendance, correspond- nia (UC). It does not necessarily
to traditional classrooms. Recent ing to a relative 10% to 20% represent the views of the Com-
evidence in Los Angeles County, relative increase in student mission, its employees, or the State
however, has suggested relatively absence. of California. The Commission, the
higher indoor air concentrations of • Yearly attendance was 2% State of California, its employees,
toxic and odorous volatile organic higher (p < 0.0001) in tradi- and UC make no warranty, express
compounds are possible in tional than in portable class- or implied, and assume no legal
portable classrooms (Shendell et rooms. liability for the information in this
al., 2003b), as are higher occupant • Based on the measured CO2 report; nor does any party repre-
densities even if federal and state concentrations, we estimated sent that the use of this informa-
class size reduction initiatives apply ventilation rates in at least tion will not infringe upon privately
across room types. In addition, it 50% of the classrooms were owned rights. This report has not
is not known whether inferior IEQ less than 7.5 L s-1 per person, been approved by the Commission
could cause such a large increase which is the minimum rate nor has the Commission passed
in absence. Although the higher specified in most codes and upon the accuracy or adequacy of
absence rate in portable class- standards. the information in this report.
rooms was statistically significant,
the small sample (25 classrooms) Since this study was based on The submitted manuscript has
should be considered. Before analyses of previously collected been authored by a contractor to
drawing conclusions, other CO2 data, general conclusions the Regents of the University of
studies should compare absence should not be drawn from the ob- California/California Institute for
rates in portable and traditional served linkage of higher CO2 levels Energy Efficiency. Accordingly, The
classrooms. with increased absence. This study, Regents retains a non-exclusive
however, does provide motivation royalty free license to publish or
Finally, we note how changes in for larger studies designed specifi- reproduce the published form of
ventilation or in any other factor cally to investigate the linkage of this contribution, or allow others
affecting student attendance will longer term CO2 concentration to do so, for CIEE’s purposes.
influence the funding provided data and more accurately mea-
to many SDs, because funding is sured ventilation rates with student This work was also supported by
linked to annual ADA. For exam- absence. the National Institute for Standards
ple, in California the most currently and Technology with funding from
available (2001-02) funding rate is Acknowledgements the U.S. EPA Indoor Environments
$12.08 per student-day not absent We thank Mark Mendell and Division and from the Assistant
(CDE, 2003). For a classroom of Christine Erdmann for reviewing a Secretary for Energy Efficiency
20 children with a 185-day school draft of this document, Elisabeth and Renewable Energy, Build-
year (3700 student-days), a 1% Overholt and Frankie Robison, and ing Technology Program of the
decrease in annual ADA (or 20% participant school districts, school U.S. Department of Energy under
relative increase in absence) is principals, and office administrative contract DE-AC03-76SF00098. The
$450 per classroom in funding lost staff for their help during retro- initial classroom IEQ assessments in
to the SD. spective collection of attendance Washington and Idaho were spon-
and daily schedule data. We thank sored by annual grants from the
Conclusions the custodians and teachers visited U.S. EPA Region X office (Contracts
The major findings of this study by field technicians during school #X-98084701-0, X-97014901-0),
were as follows: hours for their cooperation. and a WSU Service Center Agree-
• A 1000 ppm increase in the ment with NWAPA renewed
elevation of the indoor CO2 annually.

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 7
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Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 9
Table 1:
Summary statistics of frequency of observations for selected qualitative variables.

Values presented are number of observations and percentage of observations (%).

Time of visit and measures: school schedule variable*
Early AM AM recess Late AM Lunch Early PM PM Recess Late PM
85 9 90 39 123 11 44
Overall study 35
(21.2%) (2.2%) (22.4%) (9.7%) (30.7%) (2.7%) (11.0%)
23 4 68 32 93 7 28
WA only 9
(9.0%) (1.6%) (26.7%) (12.6%) (36.5%) (2.8%) (11.0%)
62 5 22 7 30 4 16
ID only 26
(42.5%) (3.4%) (15.1%) (4.8%) (20.6%) (2.7%) (11.0%)
Grade (K, 1st to 6th)
K 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Other**
64 70 68 67 57 61 41 8
Overall study
(14.8%) (16.2%) (15.7%) (15.5%) (13.2%) (14.1%) (9.5%) (1.2%)
38 43 43 41 34 38 19 8
WA only
(14.6%) (16.5%) (16.5%) (15.7%) (13.0%) (14.6%) (7.3%) (2.0%)
26 27 25 26 23 23 22
ID only 0
(15.1%) (15.7%) (14.5%) (15.1%) (13.4%) (13.4%) (12.8%)

* The values presented for this variable were ** “Other” meant the classroom was
coded as the categorical 1-7 (“.” for not occupied by students in multiple grades
known) for statistical analyses in SAS Enter- (2nd and 3rd) or the grade level varied and
prise Guide v.1.3 (SAS v.8.2, Cary, NC). was not documented.

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 10
Table 2:
Descriptive statistics for selected measures, with results presented by state and room type.

dCO2 (ppm), the short-term indoor minus school outdoor CO2 concentration
No. Obs.
Room No. Class- Est. 90th
State (No. Miss- Average Median Std Dev Min Max
type* rooms %tile
ing obs.)
ID M 165 164 (1) 840 670 630 50 4230 1460
ID P 7 7 1510 1590 790 110 2440 2440
WA M 244 239 (5) 580 570 310 60 3030 890
WA P 18 16 (2) 610 300 850 10 3510 1140
Annual average (“yearly”) daily attendance (as %)**
No. Obs.
Room No. Class- Est. 90th
State (No. Miss- Average Median Std Dev Min Max
type* rooms %tile
ing obs.)
ID M 165 165 95.3 95.5 1.5 85.2 97.9 96.6
ID P 7 7 91.0 92.4 3.5 87.0 95.1 95.1
WA M 244 244 94.6 94.8 1.5 88.9 98.6 96.4
WA P 18 18 93.3 93.4 1.7 89.8 97.0 95.1
Average “pre-visit” daily attendance (as %)
No. Obs.
Room No. Class- Est. 90th
State (No. Miss- Average Median Std Dev Min Max
type* rooms %tile
ing obs.)
ID M 165 165 95.4 95.6 1.6 83.5 98.0 96.9
ID P 7 7 90.4 93.0 4.6 84.7 95.0 95.0
WA M 244 244 95.3 95.3 1.9 88.6 99.0 97.6
WA P 18 18 93.9 93.6 2.0 90.8 98.3 96.5

* M = main building/traditional classroom, ** Annual average (“yearly”) daily absence NOTE: WSU technicians did not record
P = portable/relocatable classroom (as %) was calculated as 1 - “yearly” daily room type for two WA classrooms, thus
attendance (as %). were excluded.

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 11
Table 3:
Descriptive statistics for selected measures, with results presented by state, room type and
school to provide insight into within-school versus between-school variability.

dCO2, short-term indoor minus school Annual average (“yearly”)

outdoor school outdoor daily attendance***
No. Class-
rooms **

Est. 90th

Est. 90th



Std Dev

Std Dev



State School (No. Min Max Min Max

A 11 11 1070 1190 480 310 1790 1590 410 94.1 94.0 1.0 92.2 96.2 94.9
B 23 23 560 550 310 70 1200 970 380 95.7 96.0 1.0 93.3 97.0 96.6
C 21 21 480 460 180 70 840 680 400 94.9 94.9 0.9 92.9 96.4 95.9
D 23 23 1000 980 380 400 1630 1560 360 95.2 95.9 3.1 85.2 97.7 97.4
E 20 20 510 340 540 50 2450 980 350 95.4 95.6 0.9 92.7 96.5 96.4
F 26 25 (1) 590 610 280 180 1190 1060 450 96.0 95.9 0.7 94.9 97.9 96.7
G 25 25 1670 1410 930 460 4230 3370 380 95.3 95.4 1.0 92.1 96.7 96.4
H 16 16 810 720 250 550 1390 1320 400 94.9 94.8 0.9 93.4 96.6 96.1
A 3 3 1540 1590 230 1290 1740 1740 410 93.2 93.0 0.9 92.4 94.1 94.1
D 4 4 1500 1720 1100 110 2440 2440 360 89.3 87.6 3.9 87.0 95.1 95.1
I 9 9 710 410 890 110 3030 3030 390 92.7 93.0 1.2 90.8 94.0 94.0
J 16 16 810 790 120 610 1060 960 440 95.3 95.4 1.1 93.2 96.7 96.6
K 14 14 440 400 150 210 710 680 380 94.1 94.5 1.3 90.0 96.0 95.0
L 17 17 440 430 220 200 870 820 390 95.1 95.1 0.7 93.9 96.0 96.0
M 19 19 460 410 200 150 1010 710 370 94.7 94.8 1.8 91.9 98.6 97.5
N 20 16 (4) 570 530 270 130 1030 930 380 95.0 95.1 1.2 92.4 96.8 96.5
O 13 13 560 630 290 60 1080 880 370 95.5 95.6 1.7 90.3 97.1 96.8
P 22 22 460 500 210 130 1030 590 370 95.8 96.2 1.0 93.1 97.0 96.7
Q 16 15 (1) 390 360 250 110 900 800 380 94.3 94.3 1.2 92.3 96.1 95.9
R 24 24 670 600 210 370 1130 1020 380 94.1 94.4 1.6 88.9 95.8 95.5
S 23 23 660 650 150 450 980 880 380 94.9 95.2 1.3 92.1 96.7 96.2
T 20 20 690 680 140 400 910 870 360 93.9 93.8 1.2 90.9 96.3 95.3
U 13 13 550 620 230 190 970 740 360 94.2 94.4 1.5 91.6 96.5 96.1
V 18 18 690 500 540 260 2060 2010 350 94.2 94.7 1.5 90.8 96.9 96.2
I 4 4 960 170 1700 10 3510 3510 390 91.9 92.0 1.6 89.8 93.8 93.8
K 3 3 400 460 110 270 460 460 380 92.3 91.8 1.2 91.5 93.7 93.7
L 2 2 330 330 250 160 510 510 390 94.8 94.8 0.4 94.5 95.0 95.0
P 2 2 250 250 40 220 280 280 370 94.8 94.8 3.1 92.6 97.0 97.0
S 2 2 990 990 120 910 1080 1080 380 94.4 94.4 0.1 94.3 94.4 94.4
T 3 3 530 320 540 130 1140 1140 360 92.3 92.3 0.8 91.6 93.1 93.1

* M = main building/traditional classroom, P = ** Enrollment, attendance and absence data *** Annual average (“yearly”) daily absence (as
portable/relocatable classroom were available for each classroom included in %) was calculated as 1 - “yearly” daily atten-
analyses presented on this table. dance (as %).

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 12
Table 4:
Descriptive statistics for dCO2 (in ppm) by state, grade level (age), and room type.

Room No. Class- Arithmetic Standard
State Grade Median Minimum 90th Maximum
Type* rooms** Mean Deviation
ID K M 26 570 440 410 70 1320 1410
WA K M 35 500 430 470 200 770 3030
WA K P 2 250 250 40 220 280 280
ID 1 M 27 820 680 480 250 1780 2130
WA 1 M 42 470 430 210 120 750 890
ID 2 M 22 1160 700 1030 210 2680 4230
ID 2 P 3 1540 1590 230 1290 1740 1740
WA 2 M 42 580 560 330 150 860 2060
WA 2 P 1 270 270 n/a3 270 270 270
ID 3 M 26 910 780 730 70 1430 3370
WA 3 M 40 600 610 320 60 880 2010
WA 3 P 1 460 460 n/a*** 460 460 460
ID 4 M 23 790 680 520 50 1460 2290
WA 4 M 32 680 660 190 210 920 1010
WA 4 P 2 1980 1980 2160 460 3510 3510
ID 5 M 23 900 690 540 110 1680 2450
WA 5 M 33 580 570 240 110 920 1080
WA 5 P 5 410 320 410 10 1080 1080
ID 6 M 18 730 690 290 220 1130 1190
ID 6 P 4 1500 1720 1100 110 2440 2440
WA 6 M 14 810 760 150 650 1020 1130
WA 6 P 5 500 280 490 60 1140 1140
WA 2 and 3 M 2 610 610 400 330 890 890
WA 4 and 5 M 3 770 690 440 370 1240 1240

* M = main building/traditional classroom, ** Short-term indoor CO2 (and thus *** n/a = not available because of small
P = portable/relocatable classroom dCO2) data were missing for the following sample size (only one classroom) in this
numbers of classrooms (n=6 total): grade strata
2, WA, M (n=1); grade 4, ID, M (n=1);
grade 4, WA, M (n=1); and, grade 5, WA,
M (n=3).

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 13
Table 5.
Key results of multivariate regression modeling.*

Room Type Ethnicity

Basic Model Characteristics CO2 (per ppm) SES Variable ***
Variable ** Variable ****
CO2 or
No. dance Para- Para- Para- Para-
Rate Model
Class- or meter P-value meter P-value meter P-value meter P-value
Vari- R2
rooms Absence Estimate Estimate Estimate Estimate
able in
395 Atten- dCO2 0.21 -0.0005 0.02 2.29 <0.001 -- 0.026 0.001
395 Atten- dCO2 0.18 -0.0009 0.001 2.33 <0.001 -- 0.029 0.02

* Parameter estimates represent percent ** For traditional/main building classrooms **** Percent Hispanic, in some models
increase in attendance or absence per ppm relative to portable/relocatable classrooms. percent white/Caucasian was also
CO2, 1 m3 s-1 ventilation rate; or percent included and significantly associated with
increase in the SES or ethnicity variable, *** The variable represented the percent- attendance.
or for a traditional classroom relative to a age of students at the school receiving
portable classroom. The P-values for the either free or reduced lunches.
total model were always < 0.0001.

This article has been republished by

the Washington State University
Energy Program with permission from
Indoor Air.
Shendell, D. G., Prill, R., Fisk, W. J.,
Apte, M. G., Blake, D. and Faulkner, D.
(2004), Associations between classroom
CO2 concentrations and student
attendance in Washington and Idaho.
Indoor Air, 14:5, 333–341. Also published
with the same title as Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory Report
#LBNL-54413, January 30, 2004.

WSUEEP12-032 • June 2012

Associations Between Classroom CO2 Concentrations and Student Attendance in Washington and Idaho – Page 14