Oregon private and public schools K-12 as well as community colleges are gearing up for a new law in July that requires a different approach to addressing pest problems that may not include the use of pesticides.
Among requirements of the new law, school campuses will need to adopt Integrated Pest Management plans that give preference to use of non-chemical pest control measures. If pesticides are used, the new law sets up a notification and posting system prior to applications.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University are conducting outreach and education for those who need to be ready prior to the coming school year opening this fall.
"The new law is a holistic way of managing pests in schools," explains Janet Fults, an ODA Pesticides Division supervisor. "Hopefully, the end result will be a reduction in pest pressure in schools and a better environment for kids."
Fults says IPM does not remove pesticides from the toolbox of options to deal with pest problems in schools. Just as on farms, chemicals are considered to be an important part of the overall IPM approach, if needed.
"Schools will need to look at all other options of managing pests," he says. "We need to ensure that pesticides, when necessary, are applied correctly in the right place at the right time for the right reason. That way, they are used in a safe and responsible manner."
Oregon Senate Bill 637 was signed into law in 2009 but provided a period for schools to prepare for IPM and all of the other new requirements. Plans adopted by school districts will need to include regular monitoring and inspections to detect pests.
Much of what the new law requires for the educational industry will be familiar to farmers, who have had to comply with chemical regulations for decades. This is perhaps the first time another sector of society has to meet specifications that have long been something agriculture has lived with and struggled to comply.
School personnel will need to identify the pests before they can take action. Each school or district must designate an IPM coordinator who needs to complete six hours of training each year. Districts must have a list of low-impact pesticides that would be available if they decide that a pesticide application is absolutely necessary.