Last year, Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) students began the school year with no clean drinking water. That will not be the case for the 2019-2020 school year, with drinking water scheduled to be turned back on at all 106 DPSCD schools September 3 through hydration stations.
Almost a year ago, DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and the board turned off all drinking water in every DPSCD school, providing water coolers until a long-term solution could be identified. He joined DPSCD board members and partners at Marcus Garvey Academy on the city’s east side to demonstrate how the new hydration stations will be used this upcoming school year.
“Today is a proud moment to say that, as an organization, we defined a problem and moved forward with a solution,” Dr. Viti said at the press conference Wednesday morning. “We executed based on the timeline that we articulated around this time last year and this work would not have happened without private contributions.”
Over 20 donors, including Quicken Loans ($500,000), United Way ($500,000), Delta Dental Foundation ($300,000), Ford Motor Company Fund ($200,000), Detroit Lions ($156,000), contributed close to $3 million to the initiative. Dr. Vitti said DPSCD did not use any of its own money to fund the hydration stations.
Every school received one station per 100 students enrolled, with minimum of two per building, bringing the total to over 500. Dr. Vitti said the district was still working on installing hydrations stations in teacher’s lounges and gymnasiums. The district also purchased 50,000 water bottles for every student, which will be made available on the first day of school.
“This is a call to not only let our parents know that the drinking water will be on Tuesday, but that it will be cold and refreshing,” said Dr. Vitti, who drank from one of the new hydration stations himself. “It’s also a call to parents throughout this city, state, and country to demand that water be tested in schools. This is not just a DPSCD issue, but a national issue.”
The hydration stations appear to be regular water fountains, but come equipped with a safety feature that signals the filter system has to be replaced when red. Dr. Vitti said engineers will be on call when filters need to be replaced. The filters cost $54 each and the district would pay for the replacement filters, at a reoccurring cost of $50,000.
“Over the past year, we have demonstrated that our kids come first, and they deserve to have clean drinking water,” said DPSCD Board of Education President Dr. Iris Taylor.
Dr. Vitti said the district will continue to have annual testing of drinking water in its schools, despite any federal, state, or local requirements to do so. Despite public and national outrage over the water shutoffs last September, there are no known or reported cases of DPSCSD students being adversely affected by lead poisoning in the water. It hopes that its proactive approach to ensure clean water for its students will be shared by other schools in Detroit and throughout the country.
“I want to thank Dr. Vitti for his fearless leadership and keeping children first in the decisions that are made across this district,” said Elijah Rozier, Principal at Marcus Garvey Academy. “I look forward to working with him and the board members on restructuring and growing our district.”