SF leaders look to expand access to drinking water at public schools 

City leaders are exploring ways to increase access to drinking water at San Francisco public schools -- specifically, at the half of schools that are not already on tap to receive bottle-filling stations.

So far 18 schools have received water bottle-filling stations, courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, as part of a pilot program that began after federal and state laws passed in 2010 required clean, free drinking water at schools during meal times.

Thirteen more schools are slated to receive filling stations from the SFPUC by early next fall, and money from the 2011 Proposition A bond will pay for the installation of filling stations at 25 more schools in alignment with the district's modernization efforts, said Nik Kaestner, the SFUSD's director of sustainability.

That leaves about 54 schools with no plans to receive the filling stations, which city leaders vowed to change at a city and school board committee meeting May 22.

Board of Education Commissioner Matt Haney said at a recent visit to Mission High School that students told him their biggest concern was a lack of access to drinking water.

"Here we are in San Francisco -- one of the wealthiest cities in the world -- and students are telling us that they don't have access to water," Haney said. "On paper it all looks fine, but in terms of how the students experience it and whether they actually have the water that they need ... that clearly wasn't happening."

Haney emphasized the bottle-filling stations are more beneficial for students than water fountains. Installing a water station costs between $3,000 and $12,000, depending on the spot where it's being installed, Kaestner said.

City leaders intend to bring the stations to all schools eventually and are exploring options to fund that goal.

To comply with state law, the SFUSD must provide access to drinking water in or near cafeterias at all schools by 2015-16.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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