Helping schools fight pests with sensitivity for students’ health
By Carl Wilson and Mary Small, CSU Extension
A pilot school IPM (integrated pest management) program was launched this year with Denver Public Schools (DPS). One goal is to defeat pests by using our knowledge of what pests need to thrive. The other is to reduce pesticide exposure for students, teachers, parents and others spending time in school buildings.
While the district has done a good job of using means other than pesticides to combat pests, the program is “ratcheting it up a notch.” One key piece is a school inspection by the school IPM program team. Members include:
- Colorado State University Extension
- CO Dept of Agriculture
- CO Dept of Education
- CO Dept of Public Health and Environment
- Private pest control companies
Buildings were inspected, looking for openings for pest entry, food and nest material sources. Entrepreneurial control efforts by individual staff (cans of pesticide) were also identified.
The next step is taking our science-based knowledge of pest life cycles and using it to defeat them. Plumbing entrance holes in walls were plugged and worn door sweeps replaced to bar outside entry. Hot spots were discovered and reasons for them identified. Often human behaviors were associated with these such as food and partially full drink cans left out overnight. This has led to the next step of the program, education.
School IPM presentations are being made to the staff at all three schools to encourage their cooperation and to provide tips on how to do their jobs in a way that doesn’t encourage pests. For example, storage boxes with tight fitting lids have been recommended for food and edible art supplies (pasta). Cleaning up drips and spills on wheat-based glue and cafeteria bottles is encouraged with other cleanliness and maintenance efforts. When students, teachers, staff, facility managers and district maintenance personnel are all knowledgeable about pests and the ongoing IPM program, least toxic methods of control can be used while reducing or eliminating pests.
Re-inspection of buildings by the team will reveal results. If the pilot is successful, the program will be expanded to other schools and districts. A grant from EPA and the CO Department of Agriculture make this program possible.
Updated Saturday, September 25, 2010