Puyallup, Wash. — Four school districts in Washington have recently earned IPM Star certification for sustainable pest management practices after passing a rigorous, 37-point inspection conducted by the independent nonprofit IPM Institute of North America. The Districts of Kelso, Mukilteo, Lake Washington and Federal Way Public Schools each had independent on-site inspections that evaluated their Integrated Pest Management policies and practices.
The school districts’ IPM programs initially aimed to curtail the use of spray-applied pesticides and to better prevent pest problems.
In 2002, Lake Washington School District, the 6th largest district in the state with 3,000 staff and 27,500 students, convened an IPM task force in response to parent concerns and to changes in Washington State law that required increased diligence in notifying staff, students and parents before pesticides or herbicides were applied. That task force recommended the creation of an IPM program to ensure compliance and to go above and beyond the requirements of the law.
Jon Kollman, maintenance field supervisor and IPM coordinator, said that he is most proud of their Pesticide-Free School Program.
“Schools take an active role in managing their site vegetation without the use of herbicides. The number of participating schools has grown from two to seven in the past two years.”
IPM is a common sense approach to solving pest problems with minimum pesticide usage through prevention of the conditions that encourage pests. IPM involves close inspection and monitoring of structures and facilities for conditions conducive to pests, and sealing cracks, crevices and avenues of entry for pests to keep them out of buildings. Potential food sources for pests are sealed away or eliminated as well. Pesticides are used only when reasonable, non-chemical methods do not provide adequate control, and then only via least-risk products and formulations.
Evaluators Carrie Foss of Washington State University and Dr. Thomas Green of the IPM Institute assessed the four school districts according to IPM Star’s evaluation standards which cover: sanitation, pest exclusion, pest management training and pesticide application notification practices, along with pesticide products used. The districts each received a detailed report on the inspection findings and remedied any outstanding requirements before achieving certification.
Kelso School District, with over 700 staff and 5000 students, began their IPM program in 2011, after school staff learned about the benefits of an integrated approach from IPM classes and conferences conducted by WSU, the Washington Association of Maintenance and Operations Administrators, and monthly Environmental Protection Agency webinars.
In particular, Kelso staff were concerned about the potential impact of poor indoor air quality on students’ learning processes. Indoor air quality can be negatively affected by the presence of pest allergens and pesticides, which can make allergies and asthma worse and lead to poor health outcomes for students and staff.
“When teachers and students come into a classroom, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether it’s clean, safe or healthy for learning,” says Gary Schimmel, IPM Coordinator and Supervisor of Maintenance and Operations for Kelso.
Federal Way Public Schools took a similar path and now has an expanded IPM program that covers the district’s four high schools, seven middle schools, 23 elementary schools, one alternative school, three academies, and one food service facility – with over 2,200 staff and 23,000 students.
Rick Leavitt, IPM coordinator for Federal Way, acknowledges the shift that IPM presents.
“We must change our ways of thinking and educate everyone. IPM gives us the framework for best practices. Our district has done an amazing job in driving toward these goals.”
David Johnson, IPM Coordinator for Mukilteo School District, emphasizes that IPM is a different approach.
“IPM is really about educating the staff and our customers. I am proud of our staff for being open to a new way of business, and of customers for understanding that this way of doing things is healthier for everyone,” he says.
He notes that cooperation on all levels has been key for Mukilteo’s IPM program.
“IPM is about the best practices for keeping harmful items out of the schools, whether it is chemicals or pests. The most important thing to make it work is support up and down the chain of command.”
The four districts will be honored at a Washington School IPM event on October 1, 2015, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture, in Seattle.
IPM Star Certification is presented in partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program. Created and administered by the Madison, Wisconsin-based nonprofit IPM Institute of North America, the program has been available since 2003 for school districts and childcare facilities in North America.
Carrie R. Foss, Urban IPM Director, WSU Urban IPM & Pesticide Safety Education
2606 W. Pioneer
Puyallup, WA 98371-4998
Ph: (253) 445-4577