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May 11, 2009

In his address to Congress this past February, President Obama made the following observation:

I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina, a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.

Acoustics does matter in schools - improper room acoustics as well as internal and external noise sources can result in reduced student performances and classroom disruptions. As I have discussed many times in this blog, overcoming bad acoustics isn’t simply a matter of adding a classroom sound reinforcement system after the fact, acoustics is something that needs to considered as an integral part of classroom and school design - there is no off-the-shelf classroom sound system that will compete with a freight locomotive.

I hope that some of the money in the stimulus package used for school construction and renovation will be used to help improve the acoustics of school. Of course being in the field I have some self-interest here, but I think that we acousticians have an important contribution to make. With that, I am encouraged by the announcement that in H.R. 2187 Congress is working toward creating grants to be used for addressing acoustical deficiencies in classrooms:

The House Education and Labor Committee passed H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which expanded the classroom noise and acoustics provisions in the legislation. If passed by Congress and signed into law, H.R. 2187 would allow federal grants to be used by districts to take, “measures designed to reduce or eliminate human exposure to classroom noise and environmental noise pollution.” Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) also offered a two-word amendment allowing schools to use money on “ceilings [and] flooring.”

[..]

Sestak further noted that his congressional district is in the flight path of Philadelphia International Airport with planes flying as low as 500 feet above the ground. He has received reports of children not being able to hear in their schools and has been fighting with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on noise abatement.

[thanks David Lubman]


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