Communication is Key to a Solid Pest Management Strategy

Teachers are an important part of keeping schools pest free, but pest management usually isn’t a part of a teacher’s professional training. For that reason, educating teachers — and other school staff — about how they can help keep critters out of our schools is key to any good integrated pest management (IPM) program, says Scott Behner, the supervisor of general maintenance at Carrollton Farmers Branch (CFB) Independent School District in Texas. IMP is an important part of a green maintenance program, as outlined in Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Cleaning program.

But keeping schools pest free is no easy task. “If you’ve ever tried to keep pests out of your house, imagine how difficult it is to keep them out of a high school,” Behner says. A rat can get in through a quarter-sized hole, and a mouse can get in through a dime-sized hole.

Creating lines of communication between maintenance staff and school teachers and staff can build a great foundation for an IPM program, he says. CFB uses the TIMES approach, which stands for Tools for Schools, IPM, Moisture Management, Energy, and Safety and Security. Behner has worked with CFB for more than 18 years. His team of 15 is responsible for 750 acres of landscape, athletic fields, playgrounds and playground equipment as well as 55 sites with more than 5 million square feet. And in his work, he has found that for him to be successful, he has to view the entire school staff as his team.

That’s the foundation of the TIMES approach: teacher and staff training and making sure all school staff is on the same page. “The concept of TIMES is to get everyone pulling on the same end of the rope — holistic programs are the key to good indoor air,” the district’s presentation says.

Part of this award-winning approach is a survey sheet given to teachers to agree or disagree with such statements as “My classroom is dusted and vacuumed regularly,” “Indoor wall surfaces are free of condensation” and “My classroom usually has a comfortable temperature.” The survey allows teachers to have a voice and express any issues they think need attention while also serving as a record of that room and, taken collectively, the entire school, Behner says.

Learn more about the TIMES approach from Behner during the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Smart, Sensible and Sustainable Pest Management in Your School” webinar April 16 from 12-1:30 p.m. Central time. The webinar is part of the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Master Class Webinar Series. Register here. You can also check out HSC’s Green Clean Schools website to learn more about supporting healthy indoor environments through sustainable cleaning programs.