A well that serves a rural school near Chowchilla has nearly dried up, forcing children to drink bottled water and use portable toilets and sinks while they wait for a new well to come on line.
The old well at Alview Elementary School, a kindergarten-through-third-grade school with 177 students, lost the ability to pump water on Aug. 24, Loren York, the superintendent of Alview-Dairyland Union School District, confirmed Thursday.
Water since has come back into the well, he said, but the school has moved ahead with plans to drill a new one. “It’s too risky to limp along,” he said.
“We were able to continue school the very next day,” he said. “Haven’t missed a day of school, or even a minute.”
York said the school sent home letters to parents the next day to inform them of the issues with the well. While the new well is being prepared, the school has brought portable toilets and sinks onto campus.
WE WERE ABLE TO CONTINUE SCHOOL THE VERY NEXT DAY. HAVEN’T MISSED A DAY OF SCHOOL, OR EVEN A MINUTE.
Loren York, superintendent of Alview-Dairyland Union School District
The school, which is made up of six classrooms within one large building, has stocked up on bottled water, some of it donated. The sinks and water fountains are not being used.
“We do have water coolers in each classroom,” said Sheila Perry, vice principal of the school. “That’s our solution for drinking water for now.”
The meals for Alview are made at another school in the district, Dairyland Elementary, school staff said. But, the kitchen staff also has a water cooler it can use.
The district already had $220,000 on hand from a State Water Resources Control Board grant, York said, to pay for the new well.
While it is common in the region for homeowners to wait up to 18 months to book a driller due to high demand, the school was able to find one quickly because of its emergency need.
Wells have been a topic of discussion in the Central Valley and particularly on the west side of Madera, Merced and Fresno counties as the state continues through a historic drought. So much groundwater is being pumped from the San Joaquin Valley that it’s causing a massive swath of Merced County’s surface to sink. U.S. Geological Survey researchers revealed in 2013 that some areas are sinking as much as a foot a year.
The number of children enrolled at Alview Elementary School
Researchers estimate the area that is sinking is about 1,200 square miles, stretching from the cities of Merced in the north, to Los Banos in the west, Madera in the east and Mendota in the south.
Alview is between Chowchilla and Dos Palos – right in the middle of that sinking landscape.
Kaitlyn Kuhlman, 25, of Chowchilla picked up her first-grade son from Alview on Thursday afternoon. She said she was confident the school was doing what it needs to keep the campus running and children healthy.
“I mean, it’s a little concerning,” she said about the dry well. “But they’re taking care of it pretty quickly.”
She said many parents have been sending their children to school with bottled water in their backpacks.
York said the well-water level is dropping at Dairyland Elementary, about 10 miles east of Alview, and he is working on an application for grant money that would allow the district to extend that campus’s current well or dig a new one.
“We still have room in the well, we don’t have to drill,” he said. “But, in a year’s time, we may end up drilling.”
|Chowchilla News Day
Please follow us.