A hushed silence fell over the room during the Wednesday, Jan. 23, meeting of the Bethlehem Central Board of Education, as two students from Eagle Elementary approached the microphone.
Fifth-grade students Ava Navarro and Cece Amory presented to the Board of Education their thoughts on why bottled water should be sold in their school and other schools in the district. The girls got the idea from Ava Navarro’s mother, Caitrin Navarro, who is a member of the Bethlehem Board of Education.
“The girls felt really strongly about this issue, but didn’t know what to do. I told Ava to write a letter to Dr. Douglas explaining how she felt and to ask to present the topic to the board, so she did,” Navarro said.
According to the two young girls, with juice and milk being the only options in the lunch line, students with allergies are left with no options at all. The milk that students receive at lunchtime comes as part of their meal, with juice being offered to students who are lactose intolerant. Those students have to buy juice and sometimes they don’t like it, Ava and Amory said.
“This is really wasteful and sometimes students don’t want the milk so they just throw it away,” Ava said.
The girls are not the only students who are concerned about the issue. Together, Ava and Amory wrote a petition and received 91 signatures from fellow Eagle Elementary students in various grades. They said only two students who were asked to sign the petition declined to do so.
The two girls not only expressed concern on behalf of their fellow students, but also explained why not offering bottled water has an impact on the environment. Amory stated that while milk cartons are only thrown out, plastic bottles could be recycled. Providing bottled water may only be a temporary solution, too.
“The bottled water would be an alternative until something is arranged where students can refill water bottles,” Navarro explained.
This was a question brought up during the Board of Education meeting by board members Laura Bierman and Charmaine Wijeyesinghe. Also addressed was whether or not elementary school students were allowed to carry reusable water bottles with them during the day.
“Even when we do have water bottles, the lunch aides don’t like us getting up to go to the water fountain down the hall all the time,” Ava answered.
Ava and Amory hope a water fountain could be installed in the lunchroom, with an accessory that allows water bottles to be refilled. While no action was taken by the Board of Education after the presentation, the board members agreed that the issue was something worth investigating.
“I don’t know if we can put a drinking fountain directly into the lunch room, but I’ll look into it,” said BC Operations and Maintenance Director Gregg Nolte.
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