School board opposes spending $200K on water filling stations

School board opposes spending $200K on water filling stations

Members want money available for construction projects

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The Montgomery County school board this week ditched a proposal to spend $200,000 for water bottle filling stations at middle and high schools, saying the money is better spent on construction projects aimed at easing crowded classrooms.

In December, the school board proposed adding the money to its six-year capital budget for the filling station project. Montgomery County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Andy Zuckerman told the board, however, that receiving that funding would likely come as “a tradeoff” with other projects.

“It comes down to competing interest and how much we can get done,” Zuckerman said Thursday.

The board 5-3 to reject the proposal. Rebecca Smondrowski, Jeanette Dixon and Nate Tinbite voted yes. Shebra Evans, Pat O’Neill, Judy Docca, Brenda Wolff and Karla Silvestre voted no.

In November, the school board approved a $1.82 billion, six-year construction plan that includes nine “major projects — either additions or complete rebuilds of schools — and makes space for 14,000 students.”

The budget is contingent upon county government approval, and MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has said he has “very real anxiety” about receiving full funding. Some projects would have to be removed from the budget, delayed or altered if the County Council does not provide the money.

The water bottle filling stations use filters that remove contaminants such as chlorine and lead and eliminate waste connected to using plastic water bottles, proponents say.

The school board’s proposal would have provided funding for at least one station at each school that doesn’t already have one.

At least 55 of the 208 schools in the district have filling stations, installed either during construction projects or through money raised by groups such as parent teacher associations.

School board members said they would support adding funding for water bottle filling stations in the future.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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