Clean Air for Classrooms

Clean Air for Classrooms Campaign      FULLY  FUNDED!

UPDATE:  We did it!  Because of YOU, we reached our funding goal….and then some!  Our goal was to raise enough funding to purchase purifiers for the 32 classrooms at Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools.  As of September 7, 2017, we raised enough funding to equip all 32 classrooms with purifiers PLUS we raised enough to purchase 12 extra purifiers!  The 12 extra purifiers will be placed in areas of most need throughout the Frenchtown School buildings.

YOU DID IT!  Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who donated and spread the word!  It helped so much!

Your donations are already working to provide clean air!  Today, the first order of 23 purifiers arrived around noon and Mr. Griffin and other staff already placed them in classrooms. Thank you, Mr. Griffin and the entire staff at Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools!  The rest of the purifiers will arrive next week, which means our entire student body and faculty will be breathing cleaner air very soon.


Campaign Summary:

Smoke from wildfires has been choking the valleys in Frenchtown, Montana for 6 weeks, with no end in sight.  School children who attend Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools are breathing this unhealthy air in the classrooms.  On Labor Day, the air quality in Frenchtown spiked just below “hazardous” as smoke from the Sunrise Fire, the Lolo Fire, and other fires spills into the Frenchtown valley.

On behalf of Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools, Bear Trust International launched a campaign to raise $8,160 to purchase air purifiers for the 32 classrooms at Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools.  Thanks to YOU, we reached this goal and then some….we provided purifiers to all 32 classrooms PLUS we raised enough funding to buy an additional 12 purifiers that will be place in areas of greatest need to ensure the entire buildings have clean air.  THANK YOU!

Those who donated $125 or more to our Clean Air Campaign received a free Bear Trust “Bears of the World” print, that we commissioned Monte Dolack to create.  Can you find all 8 bear species in this print?


Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools are facing an emergency situation with unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke. Since school started this year on August 23, students and faculty attending Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools have had to breathe very unhealthy levels of smoke. The situation is particularly bad for Frenchtown kids because their school buildings do not have air conditioning systems. The buildings get extremely hot (the building was 87 degrees at 8am this morning!), so teachers and administrators have no choice but to open windows to cool the buildings. In so doing, the buildings get flooded with unhealthy air from wildfire smoke. While Missoula County health officials are instructing the public to remain indoors to avoid unhealthy air, students and faculty at Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools have no choice but to breathe unhealthy air even when they are inside.

Why this Matters: Wildfire smoke is unhealthy, especially for our children. Children under the age of 18 are uniquely vulnerable to air pollution caused by wildfire smoke because: 1) they breathe a greater amount of pollution per body weight than do adults, 2) their lungs are still developing and are more susceptible to air pollutants, and, 3) they spend more time outside running around (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017).

Not Just Temporary Symptoms: Wildfire smoke is not just a temporary issue for a few people with asthma. Breathing unhealthy levels of particulate matter < 2.5 mm from wildfire smoke, like Frenchtown kids have been doing all week, does aggravate chronic diseases like asthma. In addition, growing research is showing that breathing these unhealthy levels of particulate matter may contribute to the DEVELOPMENT of asthma and other chronic diseases in our children (Transande and Thurston, 2005).

Frenchtown Kids Needed Help: The unhealthy air from wildfire smoke is not going away any time soon. This year, the smoke is expected to last until either the fires are put out by fire fighters or until the weather pattern shifts and brings in precipitation and/or changing jetstream patterns. We needed to provide clean air for our Frenchtown kids and faculty, and we needed to do it quickly.

Wildfire Smoke: the New Norm: During upcoming years, we can expect wildfire smoke to be present in the Frenchtown valley during August and September as the annual frequency of large (>400ha) wildfires in the northern Rocky Mountain region, and the average area burned each year, continue to increase (Westerling, 2016). Therefore, whatever solution we identify for this year must also be useful for future years.

A Solution

There is a solution we can implement immediately that will also work during future years ― we can provide high quality air purifiers for every classroom. Teachers can open the windows in the early morning to cool the rooms, and thereafter close all windows and turn air purifiers on. Based on thorough research, the Winix 5500 air purifiers fit the need of Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools because this air purifier model has a carbon filter designed to remove particulates < 2.5mm found in wildfire smoke. In addition, this model has a HEPA filter to remove volatile organic compounds found in wildfire smoke. Two of these purifiers will clean the air in one entire classroom. Filters can be washed manually, which means Frenchtown Schools can use these air purifiers into the future without any additional outlay.

The Winix air purifier manufacturer is generously offering us a much-reduced price for the machines because they are being donated to the Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools. The moment funding comes in, air purifiers can be shipped directly to Frenchtown Elementary and Intermediate Schools. Our kids are already breathing cleaner air now!

Why We Needed Your Help

The Frenchtown School District cannot afford these much-needed air purifiers. Hit with state legislative budget cuts to the tune of at least $100,000 for this year alone, the Frenchtown School District is doing everything it can to remain fiscally responsible. Despite the obvious need to ensure quality air for our children, the Frenchtown School District simply does not have the capacity to address this need.

Why is Bear Trust International Involved?

Bear Trust is a non-profit based in Missoula, Montana. We have a mission to help conserve all 8 bear species worldwide. Why, then, is Bear Trust focusing on kids instead of cubs? This is a time of crisis and we want to do everything we can to help those in need. The young children and teachers at Frenchtown School District needed our help.

Thank you!

References Cited:

American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017:

Transande, Leonardo MDD, MPP and George Thurston ScD. 2005. The role of air pollutants in asthma and other pediatric morbidities. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Vol 115 (4): 689-699.

Westerling, Anthony LeRoy. 2016. Increasing western US forest wildfire activity: sensitivity to changes in timing of spring. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, Vol 371 (1696): 20150178.
doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0178

Project Initiatives

Bear Trust focuses on 4 primary project initiatives: 1) Conservation Education 2) Bear Research & Management 3) Habitat Conservation 4) Conservation Policy

Contact Info

PO Box 4006
Missoula, MT 59806
Phone: (406) 523-7779