The East Feliciana Parish school system was one of three in the state recognized by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals this week as being “asthma-friendly” for reducing the environmental factors that can trigger asthma attacks.

School Superintendent Douglas Beauchamp said nurse Jackie Andrews, of Primary Care Providers for a Healthy Feliciana, was instrumental in the district getting recognition in DHH’s Asthma Control Program.

The federally qualified health-care organization operates RKM Primary Care in Clinton and staffs clinics at the four East Feliciana Parish school sites.

Beauchamp said the district qualified for the designation by following a checklist involving policies, procedures and facility improvements.

“For instance, we instituted a ‘no idling’ policy for our school buses outside the schools. We don’t want the diesel exhaust fumes getting into the buildings. When bus drivers pull up now, they’re supposed to kill the engines,” Beauchamp said.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the airways become sensitive to allergens, or substances that trigger allergic reactions.

The disease inflames and narrows the airways, causing wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Asthma reduces the amount of air that can pass, making it hard to breathe. In severe instances, asthma can be fatal.

Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled, and there are plenty of ways schools can play a part in keeping students’ asthma under control, a DHH news release says.

East Feliciana’s public schools also collaborated with the state’s asthma program and the Greater Baton Rouge Asthma Regional Coalition to assure the school’s environment exceeds the standards for good indoor air quality.

Beauchamp noted that all of the carpets in parish schools have been replaced with tile during the past two years, and the policies address the frequency of vacuuming area rugs in elementary classes, proper doormats and other factors that can help control asthma attacks.

“A lot of it has to do with RKM tracking the kids who have asthma and making sure that they have their inhalers and know how to use them,” Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp said East Feliciana had the highest score of the districts that DHH judged.

“Jackson Elementary’s teachers took the ball and ran with it,” Beauchamp said.

A teacher at the school suffers from asthma and is a “watchdog” for buses that are idling outside the building, and the teachers have agreed not to wear heavy cologne in the classroom, the superintendent said.

“Asthma symptoms often hinder a child’s ability to succeed in academic settings. By implementing these best practices, the schools in East Feliciana Parish are giving students with asthma the chance to focus on what really matters — achieving their academic goals,” DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein said in a news release.

East Feliciana Parish was joined by DeSoto and St. Bernard parishes.

In accordance with grant funding, DHH will extend an offer of participation to one school district per region per year for the next three years.