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School Districts Share Knowledge, Reduce Pesticide Use in Buildings and on Athletic Fields

Contact: Lynn Braband,; 585 461 1000 ext. 241

by Mary Woodsen

School Districts Share Knowledge, Reduce Pesticide Use in Buildings and on Athletic Fields

School building and grounds managers in the lower Hudson River Valley of New York State have a lot of incentive to reduce pesticide use in their buildings and on their athletic fields. Methods with lower toxicity are inherently healthier for children, teachers, administrators, staff, and families. Recent laws, including the New York State Neighbor Notification law and a Westchester County ban on using pesticides in county parks and nature preserves, are among the most stringent pesticide regulations in the country. Parents in these communities are asking for the use of pesticides to be reduced. At the same time, they need their schools to be pest-free and they want their fields to look pro-sports good.

The New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYS IPM) Program, based at Cornell University in Geneva, NY, offers many techniques to help schools reduce their pesticide use. Integrated Pest Management promotes least-risk ways to manage pests, whether on the farm or in the community.

Realizing that many individual employees of school districts had IPM knowledge that they could share with others in their region, NYS IPM organized a two-year learning project, funded by United States Department of Agriculture's Northeast IPM Center. Between 2004 and 2006, a team formed to help the Scarsdale Public Schools, the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District, and the Minisink Valley Central School District. They used a learning community approach, in which school district employees worked with extension workers and peer mentors to help each other develop proactive pest-management programs. 

During this project, the goal of each school district was to become eligible for the IPM Institute of North America’s Star Certification Award, a national award indicating achievement of a high level of school IPM and practices.The school districts are on track for being recommended for this distinction.