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PROGRESS UPDATE: Clean Drinking Water Project in Jersey City’s Public Schools

February 2023 update–In 2018, Jersey City Together launched the School Water Action to expand access to quality drinking water, advocating that all students at all public schools deserve the dignity of safe water fountains. Water fountains at most of the Jersey City Public Schools had been shut down due to lead found in the water. Our advocacy work required getting public officials to work together to solve this problem. Because of our advocacy, former Superintendent Franklin Walker and current Superintendent Norma Fernandez of the Jersey City Public Schools (JCPS) have worked with Josep

h Cunha of the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority (JCMUA) to move the water fountain remediation project forward.

Through this project the JCMUA and the JCPS completed water restoration projects at 18 Jersey City schools by the end of July 2022, providing access to clean water for 14,500 students. Additionally, an estimated 8,000 additional students will gain access during the 2022-2023 school year. In fact, as of early February, restoration projects at ten more schools are physically complete; those 5,300 students are just weeks away from enjoying working drinking water fountains once the new drinking fountains undergo the post-installation round of water-testing. That required testing began mid-February.

However, 6,500 more students in a dozen school buildings have no access to working drinking fountains, and continue to rely on bottled water supplied to the schools. See this chart of which schools have working water fountains with clean, lead-free water and which still don’t. On October 28th, 2022, over 100 parents and caregivers, clergy, and community leaders from Jersey City Together gathered at Joseph H. Brensinger Elementary School, PS 17 in Jersey City, to acknowledge and celebrate the improvements made to the safety of water fountains in Jersey City’s public schools, but most notably to press the continuation of the project’s momentum. Attendendees urged the JCBOE and JCMUA to complete this critical work at ALL public schools.

At our action, Superintendent Fernandez confirmed her commitment to completing the work on the sixteen schools where water infrastructure and new fountains is being done through a JCBOE-JCMUA Shared Services Agreement, expected to be finished by June 30, 2023. She also committed to developing a plan for the twelve schools and early childhood centers in Jersey City that are not included in the current Shared Services Agreement with the JCMUA. Additionally, Dr. Fernandez pledged to continue public transparency, sharing information about progress on water remediation at regularly scheduled JCBOE meetings.

The hard work by a team of leaders from the Jersey City Together Education Team and JCT member congregations made this progress possible. JCT is committed to continuing the fight for working and safe drinking water for the remaining 11,500 students without access.

“Jersey City Together leaders fought to get the school district the money it needs, and we worked to get the District to spend it equitably on critical needs, like providing clean, safe water fountains for all children in our district,” said Jim Nelson, a leader with the Jersey City Together Education team, and a Jersey City Public Schools parent. “The JCMUA and the JCBOE have made substantial progress. Dr Fernandez is continuing to deliver on this essential promise that is already improving the health of our children. We will keep advocating until the job is done.”

Interested in getting involved in Jersey City Together’s School Water Project? Check out the survey below!

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