Ask Councilwoman Helen Gym, and it’s not just the school district’s budget that’s nearly bone-dry. It’s the students who are parched, too.
Gym made an issue of the number of working and safe drinking fountains in city schools during day one of hearings on the school district before City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Tuesday.
Gym asked School District Superintendent William Hite and Chief Operating Officer Fran Burns if they planned to make the “water access issue” a priority this fall as they prepare their budget for fiscal years 2017 through 2021.
Last week, Gym introduced legislation that would required the school district to live up to the plumbing code – one working water fountain per 100 students and one on each floor of every district-owned school in the city.
“Water access has been a major, repeated concern by and for students and families in the school district,” she said Tuesday.
“But more than just access to water – students complain about quality of water. There’s been research around hydration stations. …We’re talking about investments of less than a$1 million if you add it in – three per school – to guarantee cold, fresh, and safe water access to young people.”
Burns said, “It’s absolutely a priority. But in terms of the funding, we will look for the funds to make it happen.”
District officials declined to elaborate further.
For this upcoming fiscal year, Hite said that the school district is not requesting additional funding from the city and state above the currently proposed amounts, as they have in years past. Over the next five years, the district plans to invest more than $440 million toward the school district’s strategic plan.
Public testimony on the school district resumes Wednesday.