Extension News

Efforts to Change How Schools Deal with Pests Is Recognized

9/18/2009

AMES, Iowa --There’s a bug in the rug. There’s a mouse in the house. Critters at the schoolhouse door! If these were lines from an elementary school book, they would be funny. But when they are the realities a school administrator must face and deal with, it is serious business – and time to make a call to Mark Shour, Iowa State University Extension entomologist. 

One Iowa school district with a cockroach problem did just that. Shour was invited to the school and held his three-day training program, spending two days with administration and lead people in the custodial, food service and healthcare departments at the school. The last day he met with all food service and custodial staff. Following this training, Shour conducted detailed assessments – going room-to-room, building-to-building. Then, as he says, he let them go for a year.

On his return visit one year later – it was hard to find a cockroach. The maintenance issues that he had identified a year earlier had been handled, and the integrated pest management practices he recommended had been followed. The result – a nationally recognized school system.

Shour initiated school IPM – which stands for Integrated Pest Management – nine years ago in Iowa. He has visited many schools and is participating in a national infrastructure for the program’s delivery. Shour and Iowa State University were recently recognized for “outstanding contributions through school IPM in the nation’s schools,” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The recognition letter continues with, “Shour and ISU’s support of the program have been invaluable in school IPM’s growth during the last several years. Shour has been called upon for expert advice involving programs in Colorado, Utah and Oregon and partnered on educational efforts, resulting in national impacts, and ISU has supported that.” Honored by the recognition, Shour says he wants to make more progress in getting Iowa schools, child care and elderly care facilities onboard with the practices.

“IPM helps schools learn about the pests and select the best control methods to manage them with the least negative effect to people and the environment,” said Shour. “By anticipating and preventing pest activity and combining several pest control methods, long-term management of the pest can be achieved.”

Fourteen states have state laws requiring IPM in schools, 16 states strongly encourage volunteer efforts; the remaining – including Iowa – have weak to moderate interest. According to Shour, it is easier to see IPM results in schools than it is in agriculture because of the controlled environment and long-term employees in key positions that carry through on necessary actions.

The success of the program in two of the dozen or so Iowa schools that have implement IPM has been stellar. “Dubuque Schools received the national IPM STAR award and West Des Moines Schools received the Governor’s Iowa Environmental Excellence Award,” said Shour. “Once we get people to stop and think about the ways they can manage pests, we can eliminate the use of pesticides when they really are not needed, be cost efficient and present little to no risk to people or the environment. It really is a winning solution.”

IPM implementation in 10 school districts spanning seven states averaged 71 percent reduction in pesticide applications and a 78 percent reduction in pest complaints, according to the North Central Regional Schools Working Group of which Shour is a co-leader and steering group member. Learn more about the working group at www.ipminstitute.org/NC_IPMIS_Working_Group/main.htm.

Shour is offering IPM practices to additional environments where children spend time through a free online Child Care IPM Training . Details of the training are available at www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/childcare/home. Child care providers can select to receive CEUs or a certification of completion. It is just one more way Shour is helping share the simple steps of IPM – monitor and identify pest issues; set thresholds; prevent; control; and evaluate – to reduce pesticide use and pest and pesticide hazards to children, school staff and visitors.

For more information about school IPM, contact Shour at mshour@iastate.edu or by calling (515) 294-5963.

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Contacts :

Mark Shour, Entomology, (515) 294-5963, mshour@iastate.edu

Willy Klein, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0662, wklein@iastate.edu