Dozens of leaders recently came together at Allendale Elementary School to announce the lead issues that had existed in some OUSD school water fixtures have been largely mitigated. In front of dozens of students in the cafeteria, the leaders also revealed the joint City-County-District effort to install hydration stations in all District-run schools is nearly complete.
Before the leadership got to the business of making the water-related announcements, they revealed that there was someone special in the audience who needed to be recognized. 5th grader Carlan Samuels was called out for never having missed a single day of school in his entire elementary school career. That’s more than 1000 days of school without an absence.
“As a parent of two students, I am thrilled to recognize Carlan for being an ‘attendance champion,’” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “It’s hard enough to ensure your children are in school all 180 days of each school year. But to do it for six straight years is remarkable. I congratulate Carlan and his family for ensuring that he is always in class ready to take advantage of his education.”
Allendale Principal Desiree Miles says she also had perfect attendance when she was in school, which helped her see how important education is. “His family is showing the same thing. They’re saying, ‘your education is important to us. This is important to everyone.’ You have to be there for it to make a difference. It’s just a humbling experience and a joy to be here for this celebration of Carlan.”
The 5th grader didn’t receive just certificates to commemorate the honor of the day. Oakland Natives Give Back, an organization that supports school attendance throughout OUSD, gave Carlan a scholarship – with a matching giant check – of $1500. “If we gave him one dollar for every day that he’s been to school, that would be ($1,080),” OaklandNatives Give Back Board President Kimberly Mayfield said. “But to sustain it for six years, we would need to give him a little interest.”
Carlan is a soft-spoken student who declined to speak at the press conference. Afterwards, he said succinctly he is dedicated to being in school to “get a better education.” He added that his favorite subject is math and that he wants to be a basketball player when he grows up. He had a simple message for students: “Be in school every day.”
Once the excitement of Carlan’s celebration died down, the leadership group spoke about the progress that the District has made in fixing the issues surrounding lead in water fixtures in a number of schools. OUSD’s Director of Buildings and Grounds, Charles Smith said that all most commonly used fixtures that had shown any lead above the Board of Education-mandated limit of 5 parts per billion had been taken out of service and replaced. Additional testing is ongoing, and a few rarely used outlets are still being discovered with elevated lead levels. When that happens the faucets or fountain heads are taken out of service and replaced. Smith also pointed to East Bay Municipal Utility District as being a critical partner in the testing of outlets.
Larry Brooks from the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program described a study which shows out of 6000 cases of lead poisoning in the county over the past 20 years, not a single case could be traced to water. He added that OUSD has done a good job of mitigating lead issues that have arisen in the schools.
The mitigation effort includes a partnership with the city and county, each of which granted the District funds to pay to install FloWater hydration stations in all District-run schools. $371,000 is coming from the city’s Measure HH, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax. County Supervisor Wilma Chan has also allocated $100,000 of Measure A funding. The overall goals of this effort are to give schools another way to remove trace amounts of lead in water fixtures, and to get young people to drink more water and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages thereby protecting them from obesity and tooth decay.
The project to install the hydration stations in District-run K-12 schools is complete at 80 schools, with most of the others due to be finished by the end of this week. Crews have also installed a number of the stations in charter schools on District property. All the remaining charter installations are set to be complete by the end of the school year.
“I want to thank the taxpayers and our partners at the city of Oakland and Alameda County,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “The leadership of Supervisor Chan, Mayor Libby Schaaf, former City Council Member Annie Campbell Washington and the support of Oakland residents have enabled us to make important improvements to our schools that both relieve concerns about lead and encourage young people to drink more water, stay hydrated and therefore consume fewer sugary drinks. Our kids will be healthier because we are working together on this project.” Superintendent Johnson-Trammell also praised the District’s Buildings and Grounds staff for making quick work of installing the hydration stations.
All Allendale students received reusable water bottles. “Students carrying bottles they can refill anytime at these FloWater units also helps us dramatically cut down on plastic waste brought on by single-use water bottles. It aligns perfectly with our mission to be a more environmentally conscious and sustainable school district,” said OUSD Board of Education President Aimee Eng.
FloWater CEO and Co-founder Rich Razgaitis said, “Based on our surveys where FloWater Refill Stations are installed, we know that Oakland students will drink more water, be better hydrated and have more energy. This is a win-win for Oakland’s schoolchildren, their teachers and administrators and the planet.” The news conference included a ribbon-cutting for a newly-installed FloWater refill station at the school. The person who cut the ribbon was Attendance Champion, Carlan Samuels, of course.
The students were excited to use the new hydration station. Principals at schools with the FloWater units say the students love them and that they are seeing a marked increase in the amount of water that young people are drinking.
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