DeKalb schools waiting on water bottle filling stations due to demand

DeKalb County School Board members have voted to purchase 1,000 water bottle stations like these to install in its schools. Credit: Kent D. Johnson/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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DeKalb County School Board members have voted to purchase 1,000 water bottle stations like these to install in its schools. Credit: Kent D. Johnson/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

The DeKalb County School district is providing bottled water to students opting for in-person learning because traditional water fountains are closed to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

The bottled water is a stopgap measure while the school district waits on shipments of water bottle filling stations to arrive, according to Noel Maloof, the district’s deputy chief operations officer.

School board members voted to purchase an initial 561 stations for about $455,000 in November while students were still learning remotely. Maloof said this week the shipment was delayed due to the widespread demand for them.

“We are at the mercy of the supply chain,” he told board members. “These are difficult to get and we’ve been working really diligently to make sure this is happening.”

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Students began returning to classrooms last week for the first time since school buildings were closed a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. Remote learning continues to those who prefer that option.

Board member Joyce Morley said the public was led to believe that district schools were being retrofitted with the devices before classrooms reopened this month.

“It’s very disappointing to hear that the schools … don’t have them,” she said.

The school board voted this week to purchase an additional 1,000 water bottle stations from Mark’s Plumbing Parts & Commercial Supply Product for $856,880.

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Water bottle filling stations were installed at six schools as part of larger construction projects before the pandemic, according to a district spokeswoman. Those schools are: Arabia Mountain, Dunwoody and Redan high schools, Austin and Laurel Ridge elementary schools and McNair Discovery Learning Academy.

“Ideally, we would have wanted these before the children came back,” Board Chair Vickie Turner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week.