In California, 70 percent of the state's districts reported in 2002 that they have Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs.
A survey by the state's Environmental Protection Agency Department of Pesticide Regulation, released earlier this year, found that more than half of the districts said IPM is not more expensive in the long term, but more than one in four districts indicate that adopting IPM has increased long-term costs.
Under the state's Healthy Schools Act, districts are required to notify staff and parents annually about which pesticides are being used, post warning signs when pesticides will be applied, maintain records of pesticide use, and allow parents and staff to register for specific notifications when particular pesticides will be used.
The study notes that 60 percent of districts keep records of pest treatments used, but most districts do not maintain other important records, such as records of building inspections, pest sightings or pest-monitoring results.
“This suggests that the importance of record keeping should be emphasized, and that the distribution and demonstration of convenient pest-management record-keeping systems would be beneficial,” the survey concludes.
District honored for effective pest management
The La Vega (Texas) Independent School District near Waco has been recognized for excellence in pest-control practices.
The Southwest Technical Resource Center for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) at Texas A&M University named the district the first recipient of the “IPM Pride Award.” The district will receive a $1,000 prize.
“La Vega ISD did the best job of anyone we know this year controlling pests safely and efficiently,” says Jane Hurley, coordinator of the center, which is at Texas A&M's Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Dallas.
The La Vega district has a recordkeeping system that keeps track of pest activity, facility repair needs, inspection results and pesticide applications for each school site, according to the center.
The center was established in 2001 to promote awareness of IPM, which emphasizes not only pest control, but also reducing the amount of pesticide used and the hazards associated with pesticide applications.
Creating effective pest-management policies
The School Pesticide Reform Coalition and the group Beyond Pesticides has released “Safer Schools: Achieving a Healthy Learning Environment Through Integrated Pest Management.”
It highlights 27 schools or school districts that have adopted safer pest-management strategies. It identfies six essential elements of an IPM: education, monitoring, prevention, using the least hazardous approach, notifying affected parties when pesticides are used, and recordkeeping to establish trends and patterns.
The Illinois EPA's Green Schools Checklist offers these suggestions for pesticide management in schools:
- Practice good sanitation and proper maintenance of structures and grounds.
- Caulk and seal structural cracks where pests can enter.
- Keep lockers and the building clean and dry.
- Fix plumbing leaks and other moisture problems.
- Monitor frequently for signs of pests and keep records of pest populations.
- Identify injury and action levels for each pest species.
- Use non-chemical pest-control methods (trapping, swatting, hand removal, barriers, attractants, etc.).
- Specify criteria for use of pest-management methods that include use of natural or low-toxicity pesticides.
- Spray pesticides only when children are out of school.
- Apply the proper amount of product required, and wear protective equipment. More is not necessarily better.
- Store pesticides in leak-proof containers in a secure place.