Another punch against pesticide use

Surrey School District hopes to further curb use of toxic chemicals.

After banning cosmetic, weed-killing herbicides on school grounds three years ago, the Surrey School District is now poised to “curtail and diminish” the use of the chemical pesticides and insecticides in and around local schools.

According to Trustee Shawn Wilson, it was a matter of revising school district policy so there is a more formal process for addressing problems with pests such as ants, mice, silverfish or cockroaches.

The former “weak” policy, Wilson said, was highlighted by a group of concerned citizens who approached the Surrey Board of Education last June.

Resident Melodie Tomiyama pointed to a situation at Laronde Elementary a year ago where the chemical insecticide Dragnet was used to eliminate ants.

Not only were parents at the school given little notification, Tomiyama said, but much safer alternatives are available.

“In a nutshell, they did us a huge favour,” said Wilson of the heads-up from the concerned residents.

In the Laronde incident, he said, a teacher had gone to a secretary, who called in a fumigator. The principal wasn’t involved and the method used to eradicate the ants appeared to be much more than was perhaps required.

Wilson said Dragnet isn’t used in the district very often – about 12 times in the past 18 months.

“We hoping that the measures we’ve put in place … will really curtail and diminish the use of that chemical,” Wilson said, adding that if it absolutely has to be used, the health and safety of kids and staff will be better protected through the improved procedures.

The pesticide policy now includes a process that requires the principal of a school be informed of a pest problem, and the “alert system” to inform parents has been improved. As well, other alternatives, such as waiting until summer months when children aren’t present, will always be considered.