Managing pests, including insects, animals, weeds, and plant diseases, is an essential part of operating a healthy and safe learning environment for Maine’s students and staff. Integrated Pest Management is a proven approach that can reduce leading causes of childhood asthma and asthma triggers and reduce overall pest complaints with no long-term increase in costs. All K-12 schools in Maine are required by law to adopt and implement an IPM policy, notify parents, guardians and staff about pesticide use, and appoint an IPM coordinator.
Are Maine’s schools successfully implementing IPM? What challenges do our schools face in complying with these requirements? To answer these questions and assess school district needs, the Integrated Pest Management Institute of N.A., a non-profit organization, enlisted support from the Maine Departments of Education and Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to survey Maine public schools. This voluntary online survey was conducted in September and October of 2012. The IPM Institute shared the summary of the results but kept individual responses confidential. Of the 164 public school districts in Maine, 78 participated, yielding a response rate of nearly 48 percent.
According to the survey results, Maine school districts are doing a good job implementing IPM. Almost every school district (95 percent) has a written IPM policy and an IPM coordinator, as required, and 91 percent use pest-preventive maintenance and custodial protocols. Many of the schools (77 percent) regularly monitor for pests in buildings and on grounds to address and prevent pest problems, and 68 percent of schools minimize pesticide exposure risk by using least-risk pesticide products when needed.
The study also showed areas in which Maine’s public schools need improvement. For example, 12 percent indicated that pesticides are regularly applied to “prevent” pests—a practice that is strongly discouraged and is in violation of Maine’s school IPM regulations. In addition, only 24 percent have a school committee that addresses IPM, and just 4 percent reported that IPM is taught to students as part of the curriculum. See complete results of this survey.
Maine’s School IPM program will use the information collected to improve program components such as educational materials and training for school IPM coordinators.