by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies
It has been over 40 years since I conducted my two studies on the adverse effects of elevated noise on classroom learning. Now it is 2022 and I am learning of a situation in Ottawa in which construction noise will impact on classroom learning as well outdoor play. My studies were followed by other research that found that noise intrudes on children’s learning and well-being, and the studies also showed that it is difficult for teachers to teach in noisy classrooms.
In the case cited by the CBC in Ottawa, the noise associated with the construction of a building will last several months but the overall construction should take several years. In response to the outcry by school representatives, the company overseeing the construction agreed to stop work one hour a day. Really!!!
After the study I conducted found that noise intrudes on classroom learning, the New York City Transit Authority tested out a procedure to lessen train noise next to the school while the Board of Education installed acoustic ceilings in the classrooms next to the tracks. The abatements reduced the noise and the children’s reading scores improved. Similarly, with respect to aircraft noise, the Federal Aviation Administration introduced noise abatement at schools across the U.S. that are subjected to overhead aircraft noise. In 2022, we know enough about noise abatement techniques to reduce incoming noises.
In Ottawa, the individuals responsible for the construction of the building should have explored ways to reduce the noise so that it would not impose on the school and its playground. Imposing noise for a few months–and it could possibly be longer–is unacceptable. The noise may also be affecting nearby residents as well.
To read an article today that describes how nearby construction noise is causing students to have headaches and is causing little kids to cry is especially disturbing. It again shows us that we know what to do but we lack the will to do it.