Maintenance & Operations

Creating Healthier Schools

Creating Healthier Schools 

Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (far right), and school leaders toured John McDonogh High School in New Orleans in January.

Many schools are stuck on a “treadmill” of never-ending pesticide applications, without addressing the underlying issues that make schools attractive to pests. If we can make it so pests aren’t attracted in the first place, the need for pesticides in schools would be greatly reduced.

Choosing a smart, sensible and sustainable approach can reduce pests and pesticide risks, create a healthier environment for our children and save schools money in pesticide treatment and energy costs from improved insulation as a result of sealing cracks and adding door sweeps. We call this approach Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

In January, I traveled to Louisiana to learn about the success of an EPA grant to bring this healthier, more sustainable approach to the 40,000 children in Orleans Parish. I visited John McDonogh High School and witnessed first-hand how it was transformed by Integrated Pest Management.

The presence of rats and other pests can become a plague on a school; John McDonogh High was a case-in-point. However, through strong school leadership and technical support for IPM, John McDonogh High was transformed into a healthier environment for children, and was no longer known for its pest problem.

Simple preventive measures like sealing cracks and openings, installing door sweeps, fixing water leaks and keeping food in sealed containers can make a school unappealing to pests. Where preventive measures are not sufficient to eliminate pests, the judicious and careful use of pesticides can complete your school’s pest control strategy.

Here’s what we’re doing to get more schools off the “pest control treadmill.” On March 12, we announced three new grants to promote School Integrated Pest Management nationwide to help more schools adopt a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to addressing pests:

  • The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension project (www.epa.gov) will develop a central, internet-based hub for materials and phone apps so more school districts across the country will have the information and tools they need to adopt an IPM program.
  • The University of Arizona (www.epa.gov) will pilot a training and certification program for school staff (custodians, kitchen staff, and school administrators) in eight states and four tribes, partnering with five other universities and stakeholders. Once finalized, the training materials will be available free to schools nationwide.
  • The Michigan State University (www.epa.gov) project will directly assist 5% of Michigan and Indiana schools to adopt IPM through hands-on education, web-based training and coalition-building. Roughly 135,000 children may benefit.

What are your ideas to get more schools off the “pest control treadmill?” How can we bring successful models to more of the 15,000 school districts across the country? Please email your ideas to school.ipm@epa.gov.

— This article is reprinted (with update) from the March 12, 2014 blog entitled, EPA Connect the Official Blog of EPA’s Leadership. You can access the blog at blog.epa.gov/epaconnect.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Jim Jones is the assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is responsible for managing the office, which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical and pollution-prevention laws.

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