After two years of working with the University of Georgia's "IPM for Schools" program, Paul Guillebeau has seen some schools with excellent pest control programs. Unfortunately, he's seen a lot of schools with bad records, too.
Worth and Gwinnett Leading the Pack
When the program began two years ago, Worth and Gwinnett counties' school systems were the only ones actively working to reduce pesticides.
"They were doing such an outstanding job that we use them as examples of what other schools can do," said Guillebeau, Integrated Pest Management coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"Gwinnett is a really big school system, and Worth is at the other end of the spectrum," he said. "So they make perfect examples."
Schools Need Pest Policies
But Guillebeau found that most schools don't even have written pest control policies.
"If a school doesn't have a policy, a teacher can keep a can of Raid in her desk," he said. "You can see the liability if a child got the can and sprayed another child in the face with it."
Guillebeau said spraying aerosols can also interfere with bait roach controls. "If the pest control company has placed baits in the room to fight roaches, and the teacher sprays a trail of Raid, the roaches can't get to the baits," he said.
The IPM for Schools program recommends that only people with training be allowed to apply pesticides in the school, and then only when children aren't present.
Finding Ways to Reduce Pesticide Risks
Throughout the program, Guillebeau has uncovered numerous opportunities to reduce pesticide risks.
"One school had a big problem with roaches in their kindergarten area," he said. "They were treating for roaches on a regular basis, and this is an area where you'd want to treat the least."
An inspection of the classroom revealed snack foods stored uncovered, overnight, in several places. The pest control company suggested the school develop a policy that all snack foods must be eaten in an area where maintenance workers can easily clean up, and leftover food items must be stored in sealed containers.
"After that, they didn't have to spray anymore in the kindergarten room," he said. "They just didn't understand the link between the food and the roaches."
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)