Progress on School IPM Implementation

Progress on School IPM Implementation in Colorado and Utah

Dr. Deborah Young is a Professor and Extension Specialist at Colorado State University. She is director of the Center for Sustainable Integrated Pest Management and conducts research and outreach on projects related to IPM practices affecting schools, housing, and parks and recreational areas. CSU and USU have a collaborative project on increasing school IPM in both states.

Nebo School District's School IPM Inspection Team
All schools, such as the Nebo School District's School IPM Inspection Team, should conduct careful inspections before initiating an IPM program. This allows allows for beginning pest management efforts in the most vulnerable areas.

Using methods such as prevention, sanitation, and biological control agents on agricultural lands to manage pest populations isn’t new. What is new is using integrated pest management (IPM) in schools. While only a small percentage of K – 12 schools are currently using IPM, there is a national effort to make safe, effective pest management standard practice in all schools. The Salt Lake City and Denver School Districts are shining examples of how to implement IPM.

For the last two years, with funding from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Rocky Mountain Consortium (comprised of members from Utah and Colorado) has been helping other school districts implement IPM. In 2012, the Consortium conducted an online survey to find out which policies, pests and pest management practices were being used. The survey was sent to of all school districts in the two states. You can see the results at utahpests.usu.edu/schoolIPM.

Consortium members are using the results to work directly with pilot schools, conduct pest assessments, and train staff on how to implement IPM. Here are a few critical areas we are addressing to help schools create a healthy learning environment:

  • One of the key steps to implementing a school IPM program is having a designated IPM coordinator (“The Bug Stops Here” person). Only 17% of school districts reported having such a person. The IPM coordinator is an important part of the overall environmental quality team for the school or district and interacts with upper administration, principals, teachers, custodians, food service, and maintenance on a regular basis.
  • Mice are, without a doubt, one of the biggest pest issues schools face. Sealing cracks, crevices and doors (pest proofing) and using properly placed and baited snap traps is critical to controlling mice. Eighty-five percent of school districts report mice, pigeons, raccoons, rats, bats or fox in or around schools.
  • Ants are another frequent and persistent pest encountered around schools. Most schools (80%) reported that ants have been a problem. Seventy-three percent of those used a perimeter insecticide spray to control them. An effective and safer way to manage ants in schools is to use preventative methods and bait stations.
  • School districts found these goals equally important: reduced pesticide exposure; improved air quality; reduced number of pests; and pest control costs. Besides reducing pesticide costs and dealing with maintenance issues (fixing leaky faucets and replacing door sweeps), IPM can save money for the school district.

We have come a long way since 1962 when Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring”. This book is credited with bringing the issue of how pesticides affect human and environmental health to the public’s attention. In the 1970’s EPA was created and given jurisdiction over pesticide regulation and Pesticide Education Programs were initiated at Land Grant Universities. There was an increase in IPM research in the 1980’s.

Today, use of IPM by growers and gardeners is widely adopted. Both EPA and USDA are strong proponents of IPM, and provide funding for its implementation in public structures. IPM in schools, housing and public buildings, indoors and on public grounds, reduces exposure to pests and pesticides, is cost effective, and reduces pesticide use and pest complaints.

If you would like to start an IPM program at your child’s school, contact Ryan Davis (ryan.davis@usu.edu) or Deborah Young (deborah.young@colostate.edu).