Water is making a splash at three schools in the Letcher district thanks to new filtered water bottle refilling stations funded by National Institute of Health (NIH) to University of Kentucky’s Appal- TREE (Appalachians Together Restoring the Eating Environment) Project in conjunction with Community Farm Alliance.
Whitesburg Middle School, Cowan Elementary School and Letcher County Central High School are the first schools in the Letcher district to have water bottle refilling stations. Letcher County Public Schools maintenance staff have plans to install water refilling stations in every middle school in the district.
Each student and staff member at WMS has been given a reusable, aluminum water bottle with the school’s Yellowjacket mascot printed on the side of it, provided by the Appal-TREE Project. An Appal-TREE employee will keep track each week of how many bottles have been filled at the stations.
The new water fountains contain a counter that tracks how many water bottles have been filled. Every bottle filled saves one plastic bottle from being used and potentially ending up in a landfill.
“I like how it has the number of water bottles we are saving,” said Marlee Baker, an eighth grader at WMS.
On April 16, the first day students used the refilling stations, 220 water bottles were filled at WMS, which has a student enrollment of 167.
“They know that they are helping the environment,” said WMS Principal Bart Frazier. “It promotes healthiness. I see nothing but positives.”
Frazier said it is common for six or seven students to wait in line to fill water bottles in between class periods.
“As long as we can keep bottles here it will be successful,” said Frazier.
With a student enrollment of 874, 1,072 bottles were filled at the high school on April 20, the day students and staff received blue water bottles.
Frazier said students prefer the taste of filtered water.
“It’s really taking off,” said Frazier. “The kids like it. They talk about it tasting better.”
Baker didn’t drink water at school until the new water fountain was installed last Thursday.
“I did at home but not here,” said Baker. “It tastes good.”
Valerie Horn, project manager with Appal-TREE Project, said the water first campaign is a way to make healthy choices available for students during school hours.
“Overall students have been excited,” said Horn.