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Second School System in Nation Certified IPM
(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2004)
The City of Newton, Massachusetts this month was awarded the IPM STAR certificate from the IPM Institute of North America in recognition of its comprehensive school pest management program. Newton is only the second city in the country, after New York, to achieve this recognition.

IPM STAR certification is a rigorous process that includes an on-site inspection by an independent professional trained in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The inspector examines the history of pest problems, the condition of buildings and grounds as well as any pesticides used in the past three years. The school must have an IPM policy and plan in place to guide administrators and staff as they respond to pest issues, including preventing and avoiding problems before they occur.

In accepting this award, Mayor David Cohen stated, "The continued excellence of our public schools requires that we take seriously the safety and health of our children, teachers and staff as key ingredient in creating an outstanding educational experience. This certification recognizes the important work that has been done over that past several years to protect students and their families from hazardous substances in and around our schools and throughout the city."

Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young said, "This is part of a larger effort to make the schools an environmental model, in our practices as well as in our educational programs. In addition to integrated pest management, we have focused on indoor air quality, recycling, waste source reduction and food safety and security. We are very pleased that our progress is being recognized in this way and we take this as strong encouragement to redouble our efforts."

"We're very pleased that Newton Public Schools has undertaken this process, both to improve their IPM program and increase the visibility of IPM as a great alternative for anyone who has to deal with pest problems," states Dr. Thomas Green, president of the IPM Institute of North America, an IPM research and education non-profit based in Madison, Wisconsin. "We also thank the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Foundation for IPM Education, which were instrumental in funding the development of this first-of-its-kind IPM certification program for schools and childcare facilities."

"Integrated Pest Management is simply common sense," reports Green. "Problems are prevented by learning about pest biology and behavior and using that information to correct conditions that encourage insect, weed, plant disease or wildlife problems. Newton Public Schools had a top-notch program well before we became involved, due to the commitment and efforts of city administration, school operations and parks and recreation staff, plus Newton's citizen-led IPM Advisory Committee. The city had already completed a professional, comprehensive inspection of school buildings and grounds to assess and improve all aspects of pest management. Waltham Services, Inc., the contractor providing pest control services for school buildings, has well-trained staff, and designates one technician who is familiar with Newton's IPM policy to service the schools."

The City of Newton volunteered to be a test site for development of the IPM STAR certification program three years ago. That experience was instrumental in leading to this certification, says Doug Dickson, Chair of the IPM Advisory Committee. "Working with Tom Green and the IPM Institute gave us a blueprint to follow in continuing to improve our practices. When the Children and Families Protection Act was passed by the Massachusetts legislature in late 2000, requiring all school systems to prepare IPM plans and reduce the use of pesticides in schools, we were ahead of the curve."

Don Rivard, an IPM consultant who has worked with the Newton schools, said, "This certification reflects years of hard work by the school community and concerned citizens. It shows how common sense policies can improve the quality of life for students, teachers, staff and visitors. IPM has the added advantage of prolonging the life of school buildings and this process can serve as a model for all communities who are interested in creating a similar return on investment."

Green stresses that IPM is a perfect fit for any well-run school system. "IPM meshes well with other important goals that school maintenance and administration professionals are already focused on, such as energy conservation, food safety and security. Repairing window screens and vent filters, keeping food serving and storage areas clean, and closing doors and dumpster lids can go a long way to reducing the need for pesticides. When pesticide applications are called for, least-risk options, such as low toxicity baits, can be applied in small amounts to areas out of reach of children. There is absolutely no need to apply pesticides to exposed surfaces in schools with the techniques we have available to us today."

According to Green, "The IPM STAR certification process is an opportunity to ensure the ongoing success of Newton's IPM program, with the schools submitting their performance to an independent review every three years to keep the program state of the art. We hope that Newton's experience will encourage other schools systems in the area to explore certification as an avenue to ensure ongoing IPM excellence."

IPM has formed the basis for prevention and control of pests on athletic facilities and public grounds in Newton for the past seven years and the techniques are currently being introduced into all city buildings. Says Dickson, "IPM has changed our view of how to care for city-owned parks and grounds. We use organic fertilizers, mow high to reduce weed growth, aerate frequently, water only when needed, monitor pest activity in order to localize problems and use alternatives to pesticides whenever possible. These steps have greatly reduced the use of pesticides and when we have no other options, we always post and cordon off the area being treated to minimize the risk of contact with people and animals."

New York City Public Schools' pest management program is one of the 27 school districts in 19 states that are successfully implementing IPM programs featured in Safer Schools: Achieving A Healthy Learning Environment Through Integrated Pest Management, a report by Beyond Pesticides and the School Pesticide Reform Coalition.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Beyond Pesticides and learn how to get your school to adopt an IPM program by:
(1) Identifying the school's pest management policy;
(2) Educating yourself and evaluating the program;
(3) Organizing the school community;
(4) Working with school decision-makers; and,
(5) Becoming a watchdog and establishing an IPM Committee.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools issue pages.