Robla students encouraged to refill water bottles with new hydration stations

A student uses a traditional drinking fountain at Robla Elementary School. The district is working with the United Way on replacing the current fountains with new hydration stations intended to fill water bottles.
A student uses a traditional drinking fountain at Robla Elementary School. The district is working with the United Way on replacing the current fountains with new hydration stations intended to fill water bottles.

Recess at Robla Elementary School is enough to make anyone thirsty, with tetherball, follow the leader and other games on the blacktop. Keeping students hydrated during that time – and throughout the day – is the main goal of an upcoming hydration project from community wellness nonprofit United Way.

The Young Leaders Society, a United Way subset made up of young Sacramento-area professionals, recently launched the Hydration Station Initiative to bring clean, cold water to students in the Robla School District as soon as this summer. The group plans to provide at least one new water fountain to each of the six schools in the North Sacramento district, with the goal of promoting water as a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, said Young Leaders Society Chairman Dustin Humes.

“We found that many schools did not have fully functioning drinking fountains, and only had access to water during their meals,” he said. “We’re super excited about tackling this issue and hopefully making a very positive impact.”

Each “hydration station” will be fitted with a brand new dispenser of chilled water from manufacturer GlobalTap, Humes said. Students at each school will receive colorful, reusable water bottles as an incentive to keep drinking. Students will also get fliers that educate them about the importance of hydration for health as well as how to conserve water during the drought.

The modern GlobalTap stations bear little resemblance to the rusting metal and crumbling porcelain associated with water fountains of old. Their sleek blue design, made from a combination of stainless and powder coated steel, will dispense water from above for water bottle refilling, and may also offer a drinking spout. The system taps into the existing water infrastructure at the facility, and is operated with the press of a button.

Fill-from-the-top bottle stations are increasingly becoming the preferred method of water dispensing nationwide, said GlobalTap CEO Daniel Whitman. People are wary of older, poorly maintained water fountains that may have collected garbage or gum, he said. On top of that, many people do not like bending over to drink.

“When you’re putting your face close to a fountain there’s some distrust, vs. with a bottle filler, where the water comes from above and you fill up your reusable bottle,” he said. “You get more than just a sip of water, but enough water to address your hydration needs.”

The group has a fundraising goal of $25,000 to cover the cost of installing stations for Robla, which will serve as its pilot district. It has raised more than $21,000 so far, about $4,000 of which came from a promotional event at Yolo Brewing Company this week.

About 93 percent of Robla’s students meet federal guidelines for free or reduced-price lunch and may not have regular access to water outside of school, said Ruben Reyes, district superintendent. The neighborhood has many convenience stores and fast food restaurants, he said, and healthy drink choices may be limited.

The district currently has standard water fountains in its schools and offers water at meals, along with milk or juice. The new stations will add a modern touch to the district, which recently passed a facilities bond for updating the classrooms and other amenities.

“For us, it’s such a thrill that an organization as important and connected as United Way has found Robla,” Reyes said. “This will bring important attention to these kids and their health.”

Judy Allen, school nurse for Robla School District, said she often sees dehydrated students with headaches and nausea, especially after they run around outside. Getting them to drink water will be even more important as the weather gets warmer.

“They don’t realize how little water they’re taking in,” she said. “This is a good step on their part, to have water be freely accessible. The water bottles will make it more of a special thing, so they may be more inclined to use it instead of just going to the water fountain.”

At Robla Elementary, students have access to a bucket of water with a spout and a stack of cups at lunch. Victoria Gonsalves, who has two children attending the school, said getting them to drink water is a constant struggle. She said the reusable bottles are a great idea.

“I’m always telling my kids to drink water,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t listen to me, but they’ll listen to teachers.”

Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.