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Schools may finish water conservation ads by Thanksgiving
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Gainesville and Hall County school officials announced Thursday plans to turn the discussion on the area’s drought into a classroom exercise to teach water conservation.

Martha Zoller, a radio personality working with Hall County schools’ Honors Mentorship Program, said the school systems are working to develop some 60 to 100 public service announcements by Thanksgiving.

The initiative was announced at a Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce board meeting at the Gainesville Civic Center.

"Out of the mouths of children, we hope people will listen and change practices in (their) home and ... businesses, because it is a serious issue," said David Shumake, assistant superintendent of instruction for the Gainesville school system.

The spots will be aired at schools and by local media outlets. Also, they will be made available to businesses or organizations for use in training their employees on water conservation.

Several Gainesville and Hall students talked Thursday about their efforts.

Gainesville High School student Robert Whelchel presented a video public service announcement.

An avid wakeboarder, he said the drastic water level drops have given him "an unsettling feeling."

"People, when they just leave water running, wasting and all that, is sure not helping the level at all," Whelchel said.

Tiyonna Arthur, Elminette Maldonado and James Pendleton of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School read from a script as they presented a public service announcement to the chamber group.

Also, as part of the initiative, students, water experts and community leaders are set to meet at the chamber for a "Water Summit" on Nov. 14.

As a separate matter, the chamber board voted to approve a resolution urging governmental bodies to enact water conservation rules and for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to "operate Lake Lanier in a manner that will be sustainable through this drought period."

Hall County schools superintendent Will Schofield started pushing the project after his son, upon seeing the lake, asked his father "where the water had gone."

Schofield said he believed students could create change with their efforts.

On many occasions, "it hasn’t been grown folks who have changed habits and attitudes," he told the chamber audience.

Schofield contacted Shumake about the city’s participation in such a project, and he tapped Zoller and Kathy Mellette, a North Hall Middle School teacher and adviser to the school’s environmentally conscious "Stream Team," to help oversee the efforts.

Shumake said he recently visited New York City, where he was immediately asked, "Are you in that area where the drought is? ... Everybody seems to be aware of the issues that we’re facing here."

Schofield said he believes that through area students, "Gainesville-Hall County can be a shining example of what can happen when we empower our young people to get involved with authentic (issues) that affect us all."

Zoller said, "Our hope is that after the drought is over and the lake is back to full pool, that we will continue to (conserve water)."

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