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MESA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
 
Mesa, AZ

IPM STAR Certified 2008-2008

 

June 19, 2006

Is it possible to get better pest control with fewer pesticide applications?  Mesa Public Schools’ experience with IPM proves the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!  Mesa Public Schools serves 74,000 students and is the largest school system in Arizona, and seventh largest in the U.S.

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a common sense approach that focuses on preventing pest problems rather than routine applications of pesticides.

Tom Otis, maintenance facilitator for the school district, started the IPM program in 1999 after attending a meeting on new regulations being developed for pesticide use in schools.  He thought it would be a good idea to experiment with an IPM approach so Mesa would be ready when the new laws became effective.

Until then, the primary strategy was to rely on pesticide applications by a local pest control company.  “They were treating entire schools with pesticide at the end of the year,” Otis recalls.

Now pest control “is a team effort – it takes everybody,” according to Otis.  An example he cites involves an ant problem in a classroom, “The teacher was using Cheerios as a counting aid for math.  She insisted there was nothing in her classroom to bring ants in,” not realizing the Cheerios were the issue.  Otis suggested she switch to a non-food counting aid, solving the problem.

“Kitchens were a tough area,” continues Otis.  “At first the schools didn’t want to spend the money to get things up off the floor and get rid of wooden pallets and cardboard boxes.  It can be hard to get people to recognize there is a benefit at first.

Gradually, rolling metal and plastic shelving was purchased to replace pallets.  Food items are removed from cardboard shipping containers as they arrive and placed on the shelves.  Kitchens and storage areas are now much easier to clean and pest complaints have been greatly reduced – removing the pallets and cardboard eliminated hiding places for cockroaches and mice.

Mesa’s grounds maintenance crew also gets involved in pest prevention.  “Water valve boxes on school grounds are a problem,” reports Carlos Prator, supervisor for the Grounds Department.  These boxes are dark, cool and moist, and are ideal breeding sites for cockroaches.  “We clean these out and then seal the lids with putty,” says Prator.  The result is fewer cockroaches finding their way into nearby school buildings.

New team members include Ed Stallard, Mesa's IPM Coordinator who was hired two years ago.  Ecolab, a pest management company serving commercial clients, is the new contractor.  “Our focus is on monthly monitoring and inspection,” says Lyle Ferguson, area manager for Ecolab.  “Over the past year, we’ve made only a few pesticide applications - primarily for termites and bees.  If you simply clean up food and moisture sources, you’re not going to have cockroach and ant problems.  The school district has been phenomenal to work with.”

Mesa Public Schools is committed to improving their excellent program.  Open trash barrels at several schools are slated to be replaced with trash cans with lids that close – keeping pests out.  The IPM team is also reviewing bird management options, with an eye towards making schools less attractive to pigeons.

And finally, Ed Stallard and Mesa Public Schools are active participants in the Arizona School IPM Coalition, mentoring other school systems statewide as they work to implement their own programs.  “It’s been very helpful to have Ed and Mesa involved in the coalition,” according to Dawn Gouge, University of Arizona entomologist and coalition leader.  “Their years of experience and willingness to help the other school districts has sped up our progress tremendously.” 

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