Tag Archives: Sanitation

IPM in the classroom – No creature was stirring… scratch that. They are.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But a week off from school is delightful
And since cleanup was incomplete
School pests eat, breed and eat, breed and eat. – Tortured adaptation of Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow

I admit to being a Christmas music junkie (Once Thanksgiving is over, thank you. Christmas music in October is ridiculous.) But I might have overdosed a bit as, considering my next blog topic, visions of mice running through empty classrooms danced through my head. (Okay, I’ll stop now.)

Mice would find Jim delicious. Photo: Michael Homan flickr

At any time of the year, school pests, especially mice, roaches, and ants, will find and consume any food laying around. And sometimes they eat things we might not consider to be food, like glue, fragrant soaps, and their dead brethren.

The holidays, however, bring their own avalanche of new food possibilities. Forget the parties with their crumbs, spilled juiced, and bits of candy that rolled under the radiator. (Actually, don’t forget them. Not forgetting is the point of this post, so we’ll get back to them shortly.) Holiday crafts can be a mecca of opportunity for the critters that make school buildings their home.

The small, round milo and millet can get everywhere! Photo: Megan flickr

By holiday crafts, we mean anything from macaroni art to gumdrop wreaths. As an example of the pest implications of crafts, let’s look at the classic pinecones coated with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed. The small, round milo is a primary ingredient in many inexpensive birdseed and is not even eaten by most birds. The smaller, also round, millet is more popular with birds, but, trust me, both can get everywhere! Although more expensive, black-oil sunflower seeds are high in energy, a favorite of many birds, and, most pertinent to this post, infinitely easier to clean up. (If you’re interested in pursuing this non-pest related topic, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a quick guide to seed types.)

And then there is the run-of-the-mill food opportunities provided by breakfast in the classroom, afternoon snack, and the emergency stash in the teacher’s desk drawer. All of these activities lead to overwhelmed custodial staff, who are likely already understaffed and overworked, and, of course, those happy pests that can feed uninterrupted through the holiday break.

A pest-proof container that fits in a desk drawer is the perfect gift for teacher.

So lend a hand. Pre-plan those holiday crafts and parties with pests in mind and be sure to include a clean-up strategy. Give the students the responsibility for their own messes and the tools they need to clean it up. And, if someone asks you what you want as a gift, pest-proof containers for your emergency stash could be just the ticket.

For more ideas on scrooging pests, see the Texas School Pest News post Don’t make it a Happy New Year for Pests. The NYS IPM Program has put together School Integrated Pest Management: The Four Laws for Keeping Schools Pest-Free and other resources available on our Schools and Daycare Centers webpage.

And make sure you check under the radiator.

Happy holidays!

Summertime is Cleaning Time

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.” – ― Erma Bombeck

Move equipment to make it easier to clean it as well as the floor and walls around it.
Move equipment to make it easier to clean the floor and walls around it as well as the equipment itself.

While cleanliness might not help you spiritually, we can promise that it will help you prevent pest problems in the school. There are certain tasks that should be done every day, some that can be done weekly, or even monthly, and some that should be done at least once a year. Schools vacated for the summer provide an excellent time to tackle the big jobs.

The primary idea is to remove pest habitat (food, water, shelter, and space) from buildings. This includes sealing off food, repairing water leaks, and removing shelter. Reach into the corners. Get under the sinks. Tackle molding, walls, and flooring behind and under appliances and cooking equipment. This is the time to pull out equipment and vending machines. Clean the wheels and wheel wells on carts and garbage cans. If resources allow, take the opportunity to put shelving on casters. This will make deep cleaning easier, and thus allow it to be conducted more often once school starts up again.

We can't always blame the teachers and students. This cluttered custodial closet provides pest harborage and makes inspection and cleaning difficult.
We can’t always blame the teachers and students. This cluttered custodial closet provides pest harborage and makes inspection and cleaning difficult.

What other pest projects are good for the summer? Ideally your regular inspections have helped you to produce a list of tasks to tackle. Many of these projects likely include projects that will help exclude pests from your building. They include:

  • Sealing gaps where utility lines (water pipes, electricity) enter the building and between rooms
  • Sealing all cracks and gaps in foundations, windows, door jambs and vents
  • Repairing holes or tears in window screens
  • Transplanting (or removing) plant material away from the building foundation
  • Replacing mulch next to buildings with gravel
  • Eliminating water sources such as leaking pipes, clogged drains, and missing tile grout
  • Insulating pipes that accumulate condensation (sweat)
  • Reducing clutter, cardboard, and paper that provides covers for pests
    Seal pipe chases entering buildings, between rooms, and under sinks with foam and copper mesh.
    Seal pipe chases entering buildings, between rooms, and under sinks with foam and copper mesh.

For more information, visit the School IPM Best Management Practices website. Inspection forms, pest fact sheets, IPM protocols, and links to the best and latest from IPM experts will support the novice and the seasoned IPM practitioner alike.

The EPA Clean Bill of Health: How Effective Cleaning and Maintenance Can Improve Health Outcomes in Your School webinar covers how to develop and implement a preventative maintenance plan to reduce costs and improve health by using effective cleaning practices in your school.

And don’t forget to look for burned-on cheese in the faculty lounge toaster oven.

Environmental Health in Schools

This week, we celebrated National Healthy Schools Day, making it a good time to share some of the EPA’s resources. Their common-sense, voluntary guidelines help schools create a “holistic, comprehensive, and actionable strategy that integrates preventative measures and addresses environmental health issues by fostering well-maintained school buildings and grounds.  Sustainable school environmental health programs promote environments that are conducive to learning and protect the health of building occupants.  Successful school environmental health programs are best implemented and maintained by promoting awareness and participation among teachers, staff, and students.”

Here’s the five major components:

Practice Effective Cleaning and Maintenance.  aka Green Cleaning… using products that have low volatility, neutral pH, no known carcinogens and are biodegradable.

Prevent Mold and Moisture, which not only affects building longevity, but can increase pests such as mites, roaches and rodents which also increase asthma and allergies.

Reduce Chemical and Environmental Contaminant Hazards. This is not just pesticides, but includes mercury, lead and PCB-containing products.  Here’s a guide to help you recognize risks.

Ensure Good Ventilation.  Indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air and large populations of children might be more susceptible to indoor pollutants than the general population.  The EPA uses ASHRAE national standards.

Prevent Pests, and Reduce Pesticide Exposure.

This sounds just like IPM to us!

For more on  how each of these components fits in to an IPM policy in your school, visit the NYS IPM Program.