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Schools promote conservation through public service announcements
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GAINESVILLE — Dropping lake levels have resulted in rising opportunities to teach water conservation at area schools — and beyond.

"Our current water situation is an authentic teachable moment that we did not want to miss," said Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools. "... Too often, we overlook the power of young people to lead positive change within our community."

He added, "National habits have been changed in the past regarding issues such as
smoking and recycling, and the primary catalysts were school-age children."

The Hall County and Gainesville school systems, along with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, city and county governments, and others have teamed up to publicize the message of water conservation.

The groups are planning to release more details of the project at noon today in a chamber meeting at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Area radio personality Martha Zoller and North Hall Middle School’s Kathy Mellette, who both work in the Hall district’s Honors Mentorship Program, are heading up an awareness campaign aimed at students and their families.

The plan is for students in the Gainesville and Hall County systems to develop video and print vignettes regarding water-saving tips.

The videotaped public service announcements would be 30 to 60 seconds.

Area schools have jumped quickly on the bandwagon and are developing announcements with such slants as current watering restrictions, using rain barrels as a water source and checking for leaks around the house.

"I have been overwhelmed by the Gainesville-Hall student and teacher willingness to get involved with this critical issue," Schofield said.

Steven Ballowe, superintendent of Gainesville city schools, said the district "recognizes that public schools have an obligation to provide a good education and also prepare our students to be good citizens."

"Both education and citizenship are enhanced when real-time lessons are experienced," he added. "... The proximity and visibility of our disappearing Lake Lanier have made these lessons much more evident than just a book review."

Kelly Kennedy, fifth-grade teacher at Centennial Arts Academy, is working with students there to produce PSAs.

"Whatever we do here at school, they do take it home and talk about it," she said.

And the students are taking notice of the issues involved.

Parker Hendrix, 10, said his family lives off the lake. "I’m seeing how all the water levels are going down a lot, and it’s really weird."

Virginia Wells, 10, said her grandparents live off the lake and their "dock is totally on land now."

"We’re in such a really bad drought and a lot of kids need to know about that," she said. "... Kids take showers and baths, so they should know how to conserve water."

North Hall Middle seventh-grader Victoria Rogers wrote in an essay, "Everyone Can Make a Difference," that she participated in a lake clean-up project and discovered that "not only is the lake low, but it is also polluted."

"The best way to encourage people to preserve water would be to show them the effects of wasted water and pollution, and teach them what they can do to make a difference," she wrote.

Zoller said that a "water summit" is being planned with area water department officials, students and teachers to work on long-term ideas "to help with the water situation."

"Everybody is getting on board to see what kind of time and talent they can put forward to it," she said.

Mellette, adviser to North Hall Middle’s environmentally conscious "Stream Team," said she believes the public needs to be forward thinking.

"When the lake does fill back up ... we still don’t want to squander or waste our resources," she said.

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