Asthma is the top cause of absenteeism in U.S. public K-12 schools. Mice urine is an asthma trigger, and mice are one of the top pests in Oregon schools. Mice and other pests can carry numerous life-threatening diseases. When school districts were surveyed on what the main conditions causing the top pests in their schools were, the most common response was “Don’t know." Pesticide use and misuse in schools pose short and long-term health risks. There is a 25% annual turnover amongst school facilities managers and others tasked with pest management in schools, making sustainable reduction of pest problems a major challenge
The OSU Extension Service is working to ensure a safe environment for Oregon's school children through its School IPM Program. Mandated by state law, Extension has drawn up best practices for schools to implement to reduce their pesticide use. The plans use integrated pest management (IPM), which employs chemicals as a last resort and instead aims to eliminate the conditions that attract pests. As part of the law, each school district must designate an IPM coordinator. As of summer 2021, Extension had provided IPM training to coordinators in 100 percent of Oregon’s 197 school districts – covering more than 1,200 individual schools and over 580,000 students – and all of the state’s 17 community colleges. Over 60% reduced their use of pesticides as a result of the training.
Over 90% of the 3,360 attendees from 2012, when the program started, through 2021 reported learning something they will put into practice in their schools. In 2021, when the training was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 391 people were trained via 10 live virtual training sessions, including IPM coordinators from 162 school districts and 16 community colleges. Evaluations indicated that 100% of respondents learned at least one key IPM practice they intend to implement in their schools and 83% learned of three or more IPM practices that they will implement in their schools.