TUPELO • Joyner Elementary School students presented a signed “thank you” banner and burst gold confetti poppers on Friday morning to celebrate Toyota Mississippi donation of 8,300 water bottles to the Tupelo Public School District.

The donation, worth about $20,000, will provide each student, teacher and staff member in the district with a 13-ounce stainless steel bottle. The company made the donation during a ceremony at Joyner Elementary School.

The bottles will provide students with environmentally and economically friendly options to stay hydrated at school after water fountains were removed for safety purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic and replaced with water filling stations.

Joyner Elementary Principal Kim Foster said the donation resulted from the school’s grant submission for reusable water bottles.

“Toyota honored that grant and instead of just providing water bottles to just one school, they provided it to all of the schools,” Foster said. “We had that need and they felt like all of our schools could benefit.”

Although providing students with reusable water bottles may seem like a simple gesture, Foster said it carries a great deal of significance. Many of them didn’t previously have a reusable option, so providing identical bottles to all students for use at water filling stations was an equitable solution.

Having the reusable bottles also enables the school to cut back on plastic use and help the environment while teaching students to make good use of available resources, Foster said.

Superintendent Dr. Rob Picou said TPSD is proud of its partnership with Toyota and all the other community organizations that have helped during the pandemic. Having students use reusable water bottles rather than fountains will help to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s part of that One Single Heartbeat, it’s everybody coming together and doing whatever we have to do to have school open five days a week and keep it open all year, and that’s unusual,” Picou said. “Districts all over the country are closing up. We’re trying to keep school open.”

Emily Lauder, Vice President of Administration for Toyota Mississippi, said that after receiving the grant submission on behalf of Joyner Elementary, the company “recognized the need for the other schools in Tupelo” and decided to provide bottles for the entire district.

Toyota has donated $331,000 to local districts in Northeast Mississippi via grants during the COVID-19 pandemic to help provide equal access to education, along with health and wellness supplies.

In addition to the water bottles donated to Tupelo, Toyota granted $33,000 to the Alcorn School District to purchase water bottles, wipes, face masks, COVID-19 signage, paper towels, plexiglass and other cleaning products.

$90,000 went to Itawamba County School District to purchase WiFi hotspots, $20,000 to Monroe County School District for WiFi hotspots, $13,000 to the Mississippi School for Math and Science for virtual summer camp, $65,000 to North Tippah School District for 1,450 water bottles and six thermal imaging machines and $90,000 to South Tippah School District for MiFi cards and Chromebook cases.

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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