OSU helps schools reduce pesticide use, comply with law

June 14, 2012
Tim Stock identifying insect. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.
OSU's Tim Stock shows school staff how to identify insects at workshops around Oregon. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is helping schools comply with a state law that requires them to have a plan in place by July 1 to reduce pesticide use.

As part of that mandate, the Oregon legislature charged the OSU Extension Service with drawing up at least one model plan for the state's public and private schools from kindergarten through 12th grade as well as its community colleges.

Two plans – one for large school districts and one for small districts – are now online (see Model School IPM Plans). Districts can customize the plans or use others as long as they comply with the state law.

OSU's plans assign responsibilities to teachers, custodians, cooks and grounds crews and describe how to watch for and report pests. They also include guidelines for keeping records of pesticide use and posting warning signs around areas where pesticides will be applied.

"I'm thankful that OSU is doing this. Had it not been for their assistance it would have been a burden for us in terms of drafting all the documentation to implement this program," said Jim Peterson, the facilities coordinator for the Hillsboro School District, which has adopted the plan for large districts.

Tim Stock, a pesticide educator in OSU’s Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC), created the plans after piloting programs in schools in Beaverton, Salem and Eugene to see what worked and to get feedback from staff.

"He has just been a wealth of information," said Ken Anderson, who is in charge of maintenance services for the Beaverton School District. "He and his staff came out, walked the sites, made recommendations and helped us put our plan together."

The plans use what's called integrated pest management (IPM), which employs chemicals only as a last resort. Instead, IPM focuses on eliminating the conditions – like a torn window screen or crumbs under a microwave – that attract or let in pests like mice or yellow jackets. The goal is to reduce pests, decrease the use of pesticides, cut costs for schools and create a healthier environment for students and staff, said Stock, a faculty member with the OSU Extension Service.

As part of the law, each school district must designate an IPM coordinator to oversee its pest prevention efforts. The law requires that person to spend six hours each year learning about IPM principles and the law itself. To help, Stock said that he and his assistant, entomologist Jennifer Snyder, have trained coordinators from 100 school districts at workshops in Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and other locations. They will offer trainings later this year in Pendleton, Grants Pass, Coos Bay and other places.

Don Barney completed the training earlier this year. He's the lead groundskeeper for the Crook County School District, which has adopted one of Stock's plans.

"You start out with information on IPM," Barney said of the training for IPM coordinators. "They tell you how to install door sweeps and caulk cracks, monitor and identify pests, and how to come up with a solution for getting rid of the pests with a low-impact product."

To help draw up his model plans, Stock surveyed Oregon's 197 school districts in 2010 and received responses from 184. Twenty-six said they already had adopted IPM plans. His survey found that 104 districts reported mice as one of their top three pests. That's problematic, Stock said, because mice can carry diseases and trigger asthma, which can cause students to miss class. Stock intends to survey districts again next year to measure their progress in implementing IPM and help refine his program’s outreach.

View more information on the IPPC's integrated pest management program for schools on their website.

Author: Tiffany Woods
Source: Tim Stock