John Sevier wins EPA award for pest management program
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Sevier Elementary School has turned in another award-winning performance.
Dr. Karen Vail, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture urban entomologist, presented Principal Rick Wilson with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s IPM Innovator Award on Thursday afternoon.
Vail accepted the award at the Seventh Annual International IPM Symposium, which was held March 27-29 in Memphis, on behalf of John Sevier and three other schools in Tennessee.
John Sevier Elementary School was one of 24 honored schools nationwide that served as an integrated pest management (IPM) demonstration site. The schools are attempting to balance and reduce risks associated with pests and pesticides.
IPM takes a holistic approach to pest management, Vail said. “We’re trying to move away from spraying pesticides on a scheduled basis regardless of pest presence. Instead, we modify the environment by reducing the pest’s access to food, water and harborage.
“We detect the pests at low population levels through regular inspections and monitoring with glue boards,” she said. “If pests are found, we use our knowledge of their biology to manage them. If we can mechanically or physically control them, we do. If pesticides are needed, we choose ones that are least toxic but still get the job done. Pesticides are applied in a way that targets the pest and reduces exposure to the occupants.”
In 2011, the elementary school began a pilot program coordinated by Vail. School employees have worked with the urban entomologist and student assistant Pat Barnwell on the program.
Employees documented the type of pests, frequency of pests and location of pests in a logbook, Wilson said. The school experiences seasonal pest activity, such as crickets and mice.
Cut pesticide use
Vail and Barnwell visited the school monthly, reviewed the logbook and worked with maintenance employees to alleviate problems, he said. College officials helped school employees identify and remedy a number of issues, such as washer and dryer vents in a special education classroom.
“We would have never thought that it might be a issue, and they were able to provide an invaluable service and save a lot of human capital on my end,” Wilson said. “We have eliminated pest entrance points and forced them into one general area that we can easily monitor and control.”
Most importantly, the principal said staff members have reduced pesticide use. “The use of pesticides is something that we’re very conscious about here. We want to see fewer products around students.”
As a pilot program, John Sevier Elementary School also hosted representatives from surrounding school districts and highlighted the program’s successes, Wilson said. They met with more than 10 districts, and the majority of school representatives expressed interest in the program.