About 300 re-usable water bottles have been purchased for students at Alexander Elementary School to use after the school decided on a water-only to drink program. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Pop, juice canned at Duncan’s Alexander Elementary

Water is the only option for thirsty students

Duncan’s Alexander Elementary school officials have sent a notice home to parents that it’ll henceforth be a water-only school after a successful experiment that saw staff and students consume more than 2,000 litres of water in May and June to end the last school year.

So, out go the pop, iced tea, juice and energy drinks and in come new re-usable water bottles donated by the school’s parent advisory group.

“We definitely support it,” said school PAC co-chair Sarah Byrne. “I’m pretty sure we ordered 300 water bottles so that we could give one to every student that was coming and then have a few leftover for any sports teams and stuff,” she said. “They have arrived. We haven’t given them out yet because we are waiting for everyone to get finalized into their class placements with Kindergartners and late enrollments etcetera.”

Superintendent Rod Allen said the district is “fully supportive” of what the school is doing, “and we wouldn’t be surprised if other schools are going to be watching to see how it goes.”

He noted School District 79 is working to provide all its schools with at least one water bottle filling station.

“We’re certainly supportive of initiatives that promote good health and nutrition for our students and staff,” Allen said. “We’re not aware of any other schools in our district who are doing a water-only school initiative like Alexander Elementary, but many of our schools have incorporated elements of a healthy lifestyle in their schools.”

He said for example, school meal programs are always focused on providing a balanced meal.

“We work with a local nutritionist to support talking to kids about nutrition. And many schools are encouraging students to have healthy lunches, healthy snacks, limiting their sugar intake, etcetera, through awareness and education.”

While school officials were praising the move, Facebooker’s reactions were mixed about the idea.

Some were moderately supportive, while others were vehemently opposed.

“I love the idea. However, I cannot support it as being an absolute rule,” wrote Faye Saunders Smith.

Stacey McDonald felt similarly, but only to a point.

“I think encouraging and challenging are good things. A ‘drink more water’ challenge? Yes, I’m all for it. I even think that removing soda machines from school property and only offering milk, juice and water in the cafeteria is good. Making a ‘water only’ rule? NOPE. Big loud NOPE,” McDonald wrote. “Not good civics. This is social engineering which, as we know from every dystopian novel, fascist regime and ideological tyranny ever, does not end well and is not good for any culture.”

Rene Lutters worried more about general health.

“Only if those reusable water bottles are being monitored for cleanliness once they are in daily use,” she said.

Others were on board.

“Great idea! And it will save the parents money too,” noted Naomi Scholefield.

Barb Frew agreed.

“What a fantastic idea,” she wrote.

Still others were not impressed.

“So glad I’m not a student anymore. Won’t allow any choices at all in school anymore yet we can’t figure out why people are unprepared for the real world. The over control of students is becoming quite the systemic issue lately,” Alex Deakins wrote.

The notice that went out to parents did note, however, the move to only water for drinks is a trial.

“We will try this out for a little while, and see how we do,” it said. “We are looking forward to seeing our learners continue to make healthy choices!!!”

McDonald pointed out one contradiction, however.

“Outlawing everything but water removes choice,” she wrote.

Canada’s Childhood Obesity Foundation advocates for no sugary drinks and information on its website notes: “Children at risk of becoming overweight or obese include children who consume food and drinks that are high in sugar and fat on a regular basis such as fast food, candy, baked goods, and ESPECIALLY pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages.”