Because students head back to school right as autumn begins, the academic year is virtually synonymous with fall foliage. Colorful leaves litter playgrounds and sports fields almost as soon as the doors open for classes, making these fallen leaves almost as much a part of the school as the classrooms themselves.
But while fall foliage may be nice to look at or fun for kids to play in, leaves can create a number of potential concerns for you and your maintenance staff. From damage to the building itself to allowing a convenient route for pests to enter your halls, here are some leaf-related concerns you should be wary of this fall, and how you can help manage them at your school.
"Inspect your gutters regularly."
1. Gutter issues
Practically every school administrator and facility manager on the planet knows the pain that leaves can cause when they fall into a building's gutters and downspouts. In fact, regardless of what part of the country you live in, this is such a persistent problem that whole companies specialize in the removal of this organic detritus, and for good reason. Few things can lead to water damage and related headaches faster than an accumulation of leaves in your gutter or downspout.
If the problem gets really bad, you may have to call in an expert to take care of the removal. Even worse, if leaves sit in gutters for too long, water can begin seeping through your roof, causing water damage on your walls and ceiling that is even more costly to fix. This can even result in weakened wood studs in your walls or the formation of mold, both of which can create significant health risks.
Inspect your gutters regularly, especially if your school is located in a heavily wooded area, to prevent buildup of leaves.
2. Slipping hazards
Of course, not all leaves will end up in your school's gutters. Some are inevitably going to find their way to the ground. Fallen leaves can create their own problems, especially where student safety is concerned. Wet leaves can be especially slick, and if students aren't careful, they can take a nasty spill on a field or blacktop.
There's really no way to prevent leaves from falling on your sports fields and playgrounds, so your only recourse is to be fastidious with raking or blowing. You may also want to put tarps down over flat surfaces like basketball courts to make collection and disposal easier, though this is only really possible when these areas aren't in use.
3. Pest problems
Every kid loves jumping in piles of leaves. However, what may seem like harmless autumn fun is actually a health and safety issue. The reality is that leaf piles are literally swarming with creepy crawlies and various kinds of pests. Worldwide Pest reported that beetles and mites are very fond of piles of dead leaves. Termites also have a fondness for organic lawn detritus, though they need a nearby source of wood to burrow into. This means that if you keep your leaf piles close to your building, you could be essentially inviting these damaging pests inside to wreak even more havoc.
Even worse, the presence of smaller insects in leaf piles can attract animals that feed on insects, such as mice or even snakes - definitely not something a student wants to find when diving into a leaf pile.
What about disposal?
You know that leaves can create significant headaches for you, but what can you do about them? Fortunately there are many methods of disposal that are cost-effective and simple, and some are even beneficial.
Turning your fallen leaves to mulch is a highly recommended method of removal. It doesn't leave you with bags of yard waste to dispose of, and the resulting mulch - known as leafmold - can do wonders for your grass. In fact, using leaves for mulch is even preferable to using the common wood chips.
"One of the biggest problems with wood mulch or wood chips is artillery fungus that fire their black spores onto buildings," arborist Max Burton told HGTV.
These spores can damage the appearance or even structural integrity of your building exterior, so leaves are a much better source of mulch. As an added bonus, all you need is a weedwhacker or lawnmower to begin.
Of course, there's always the tried-and-true method of raking your leaves. Like mulching, it's a cost-effective disposal method. Unlike mulching, you don't end up with pounds of useful fertilizer you can immediately use on your grounds. Instead, you get bags of leaves you need to get rid of. Many companies will provide you with curbside pickup for your yard waste, and a partnership with one of these organizations can provide you with a relatively hands-off disposal solution.